As the nation spent the last few days mourning the loss of two Atlanta treasures and leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, Fulton County Library System did some research into the legacy left behind by both Congressman John Robert Lewis and the Reverend Cordy Tindell ("C.T") Vivian. It seems fitting that they both left this earth on the day before the birthday of the late Nelson Mandela, himself a champion of racial equality. Both men were Freedom Riders and were also honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by the nation's first black President, Barack Obama.
Congressman John Lewis was always a strong supporter of libraries and the Fulton County Library System, joining staff at events that celebrated the services libraries provide and more fun times, like watching a solar eclipse in downtown Atlanta with staff at Woodruff Park.
(PHOTO OF ECLIPSE)
His most important and lasting legacy with the library, however was the Congressional Art Competition initiated by members of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. The Congressional Art Competition is a nationwide annual art competition that allows high school students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories to showcase their artistic ability. The winning piece of art from each Congressional district is displayed in an eleven-month exhibit in the Cannon tunnel that leads into the U.S. Capitol. Congressman John Lewis is the proud annual sponsor of the Fifth Congressional District's Annual Art Competition, An Artistic Discovery. This competition has brought together outstanding artwork from high school students across the 5th District, which includes public, private and home school students in Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.
(PHOTO OF CONGRESSIONAL ART COMPETITION)
Congressman Lewis's legacy will live on at the Fulton County Library System as our staff works to carry on this important competition with future 5th district Representatives. Lewis was also an author of books for adults and children, from his titles Across That Bridge and A Civil Rights Movement and a Beloved Community to his more recent graphic novel series MARCH, Lewis left behind a legacy of material for young readers to learn about his work for years to come. Check out books from and about John Lewis on Overdrive.
Congressman John R. Lewis was an American politician and civil rights leader who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for Georgia's 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020.
The Reverend CT Vivian, another civil rights icon, worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. and was a leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Like Congressman Lewis, Reverend Vivian was a Freedom Rider, and civil rights activist, who rode through southern states to make sure bus terminals and other public facilities were not segregated. He was honored by Fulton County Government in 2014 after receiving his Presidential Medal of Freedom and spoke to us about his experiences.
Vivian wrote the book Black Power and the American Myth, which examined and analyzed the civil rights movement and is available at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.
The Fulton County Library System honors Congressman John Lewis and the Reverend C.T. Vivian for their contributions to Atlanta, Georgia and to the United States of America.