‘Get in the way’: The story behind the John Lewis monument in Selma, Alabama

Civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis was among the 600 who peacefully marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965, a day that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”

That Sunday, voting rights demonstrators were attacked with clubs, bullwhips and tear gas after troopers warned them to disperse. Lewis, now 78, left with a skull fracture. He would go on to become one of the many fearless activists of the modern civil rights movement.

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Evelyn Gibson Lowery, who married Rev. Joseph Lowery in 1950, was another staunch activist and advocate for women and families. In 1979, she established the SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., an institution that promoted education programs, raised more than $350,000 in college scholarships and helped raise awareness for HIV/AIDS.



But in addition to her own activism, Lowery also helped shed light on the contributions of fellow civil rights heroes through the 1987 Evelyn Lowery Civil Rights Heritage Tour, which traces the steps of civil rights history in Alabama to commemorate “Bloody Sunday.”

On March 7, 2004, Lowery commissioned the construction of a monument in honor of Lewis near Selma, Alabama, in Dallas County, according to the National Park Service.

Credit: Mark Hilton

Credit: Mark Hilton

The plaque at the Civil Rights Memorial Park is decorated with one of the most iconic phrases attributed to the leader: “Get in the way.”

» RELATED: Rep. John Lewis marks historic civil rights moment, calls for future action

It’s also inscribed with: “When we pray, we move our feet,” an African proverb Lewis famously quoted in his book “Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America.”

The monument is situated among Lowery's structural odes to activists Reverend Hosea Williams, Amelia Boynton Robinson and Marie Foster.

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Credit: Jamie Sturtevant / AP

Credit: Jamie Sturtevant / AP

In 2004, Lowery was herself honored at the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.

She died of a stroke at age 88 on Sept. 26, 2013.

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