Georgia House to consider replacing Confederate statue with statue of John Lewis
A bipartisan push in the Georgia legislature would replace a statue of Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens with one of the late civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
State House Speaker David Ralston (R) will co-sponsor the measure with state Rep. Al Williams (D), according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The effort has secured bipartisan support among Georgia’s congressional delegation as well, with U.S. Reps. Tom Graves (R) and Sanford Bishop (D) both writing in support of it, according to the newspaper.
Gov. Brian Kemp (R) would have to approve the switch, but he has previously expressed support, as has Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R), the president of the state Senate.
“I like the idea [of changing the statues] very much,” Ralston said in July shortly after Lewis’s death. “I always admired Congressman Lewis and told him so many times. Georgia has a long history, so much more than just the Civil War, and John Lewis has been an important part of that.”
Duncan, too, has expressed support for a statue of Lewis in the Capitol to ensure the Peach State is represented “by a figure that aligns with our state’s core values.”
Stephens delivered the notorious 1861 “Cornerstone Speech,” in which he explicitly described chattel slavery and white supremacy as foundational to the Confederacy.
Several states have switched out statues of Confederate figures in the hall over the years, including most recently Virginia’s statue of Robert E. Lee. Virginia lawmakers voted to replace Lee with Barbara Rose Johns Powell, a plaintiff in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education civil rights case.
Lewis’s death has kickstarted a conversation on Georgia’s legacy in the civil rights movement, as has the election of the Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) as the first Black senator in the state’s history. Warnock is senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr.’s former congregation.
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