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Nashville renames popular street after civil rights icon John Lewis

Nashville was where Lewis first began protesting for civil rights.

John Lewis AP Photo

This week, Nashville, Tennessee officials voted to rename a distinguished city street after the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. On Thursday (Nov. 5), the Council of Nashville and Davidson County made the decision to rename a section of Fifth Avenue to Rep. John Lewis Way.

Although Lewis represented Atlanta in Congress, his activism started in Nashville. He attended college at the city’s American Baptist College and Fisk University. This was where he first began protesting for civil rights. Lewis was arrested for protesting at a segregated lunch counter in Nashville back in 1960.

“That’s why we did this, because this is where he got his start. Nashville gave him his training in non-violent protest,” Zulfat Suara, bill sponsor and council member, told NBC News. “We thought it was befitting, to honor him in this way.”

Lewis passed away on Jul. 17 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was the last surviving speaker from the historic 1963 March on Washington. In 1965, Lewis helped lead the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. This event later became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The day he was laid to rest at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the New York Times published an essay that he wrote a few days before his untimely death. He spoke to the American people about what they can do to “redeem the soul of America” by getting into what he called “good trouble, necessary trouble.”

Voting and participating in the democratic process are key,” he wrote. “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”

“You must also study and learn the lessons of history because humanity has been involved in this soul-wrenching, existential struggle for a very long time. People on every continent have stood in your shoes, though decades and centuries before you,” the essay continued. “The truth does not change and that is why the answers worked out long ago can help you find solutions to the challenges of our time. Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe because we must put away our willingness to profit from the exploitation of others.”

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