Remembering the great John Lewis


Photo Courtesy of Freedom Park Conservancy

John Lewis worked tirelessly to make the world a better place for all, and his actions will inspire generations to come. “Congressman Lewis sowed seeds of hope and equity. His life’s work was an undaunted fight for civil and human rights — without prejudice or exception. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is honored to join this partnership to celebrate John L. Lewis’s legacy and to serve as a tangible reminder of the beauty that can grow from a commitment to stay in good trouble,” head of programs and exhibitions for the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Dr. Kalinda Lee said.

Chancelor Gordon, Reporter

The Freedom Park Conservancy, Trees Atlanta, and the National Center for Human and Civil Rights joined together to construct a tree tribute, the Flowering Forest, to John Lewis in Atlanta at Freedom Park. As a project that will span several years with the addition of supplemental trees in the future, the first stages of initial planting began February 19-21. Scheduled to conclude on the late John Lewis’s 81st birthday, the tribute honors his life and legacy.

Lewis played a significant role in the civil rights movement as one of the foremost leaders. Leading the march in Selma, Alabama in an attempt to register numerous Black voters along with holding the position of chairman for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) represent two of the several ways that Lewis contributed to changing history. He also participated in sit-ins and Freedom Rides, protesting the segregation of lunch counters and buses. In the process, Lewis suffered multiple severe beatings and frequent harassment. 

His efforts contributed to the passage of the Voting Rights Act which banned literacy tests, called for government regulation of elections, and investigated the use of poll taxes as an attempt to remove the barriers to voting that faced African Americans. The culmination of his work throughout the years resulted in Lewis gaining the title of one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement. 

Lewis went on to continue promoting change as a leader of the federal volunteer agency ACTION, which includes programs like the Peace Corps, and as a congressman of the House of Representatives. Throughout his lifetime, Lewis received countless awards: the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to name a couple.

An inspiration to people all over the world, Lewis impacted an infinite amount of lives throughout his lifetime and through his good works. A testament to this, volunteers of all races, ethnicities, ages, and genders gathered in Freedom Park to help plant the trees composing the tribute. Trees Atlanta required volunteers to register in advance to maintain safe numbers along with requiring volunteers to wear face masks. 

The tree tribute consists of hundreds of blooming plants, trees, shrubs, and daffodils, including an arrangement in the image of John Lewis. Over the next five years, the Freedom Park Conservancy will plant hundreds of blooming trees along John Lewis Freedom Parkway to expand the Flowering Forest. All containing early blooming dates in late winter, the plants should bloom every year around Lewis’s birthday to commemorate his life. Born February 21, 1940, he passed away July 17, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. 

“John Lewis is a wonderful example of a great fighter for civil justice and equality! I think he is deserving of a tribute because of all the changes he has brought towards equality and how much he was able to persevere in order to create a better future,” Magnet junior Serena Xu said.