A day of activities recognizing the late Rep. John Lewis will take place for a second year on Saturday, July 23, from 8 am-noon in downtown Nashville. This year’s event will include a march from the Tennessee State Library and Archives, located at 1001 Rep. John Lewis Way N. to the Ryman Auditorium, 116 5th Ave. N., where a program will be held. The public is invited to attend the recognition activities.
“It is our goal to continue the recognition of this great congressman, whose indelible legacy began in Nashville,” said Metro Councilwoman-at-Large Zulfat Suara, chair of the John Lewis Way Committee.
Sen. Brenda Gilmore, co-chair of the committee, said: “We are continuing to honor this great public servant because he is most deserving, and we hope to keep his memory alive for years to come.”
Rep. Lewis came to Nashville from Troy, Ala., to attend American Baptist College. At the college, he became involved in the movement for social change with schoolmates Rev. C. T. Vivian, Rev. Bernard Lafayette, James Bevel, and James Barbee, among others. These ABC students joined with students from Fisk University, including Dianne Nash and King Hollands; and Tennessee State University students such as Dr. Rip Patton, Frankie Henry, the late Kwame Leo Lillard, Novella Page, and JoAnn Jones—often sacrificing their lives for the cause of equality and freedom. The students were under the tutelage of Rev. Kelly Miller Smith, Sr. a professor at ABC, and Rev. James Lawson from Vanderbilt, who led non-violent training for protesters.
The students became involved in the Nashville sit-ins, which grew to include integrating the interstate transportation system.
The recognition event will include the presentation of scholarships to one student each from American Baptist College and Fisk University.
“John Lewis came to American Baptist College as a 17-year-old freshman with fire in his belly to be an agent of social change,” said Dr. Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College. “Because he was such a strong advocate for social justice, Rep. Lewis missed his own graduation ceremony because he was jailed in Jackson, Miss., at the time for protesting bus segregation.”
“This second march and ceremony continues to make a strong and bold statement, especially during these times, when rights are being dismantled and even denied,” said Suara. “It is the spirit of Rep. Lewis that will transform our hope to action in order to develop policies that are equitable and equal in a nation that allows all citizens to be free.”