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File photo / Pictured is a rendering of the Ed Johnson Memorial by sculptor Jerome Meadows.

Chattanooga's Ed Johnson memorial is set to be complete by early 2021, helping the city pay respect and learn from the darkest parts of its history.

The grouping of three statues designed by Georgia artist Jerome Meadows will depict Ed Johnson, a black man who was lynched from the Walnut Street bridge in 1906 after being accused of raping a white woman.

To many, the project will serve as a long-overdue recognition of Chattanooga's history of racial injustice.

"What this means, this memorial and agreement and everything, is finally moving the black community forward," Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod, an early supporter of the project, said at Tuesday's council meeting when the agreement to begin the project was passed. "Not just for the black community, but the city of Chattanooga ... we're still seeing now some of those exact same things happening currently with our judicial system."

Referencing Alfred Blunt and Ed Johnson, black men lynched from the Walnut Street Bridge in the late 1800s and early 1900s, respectively, Coonrod said the memorial speaks to a greater theme of inequality in historical and modern justice, and should serve as starting point for more education on Chattanooga's history.

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File photo / Sculptor Jerome Meadows works on a model of the Ed Johnson Memorial in his studio.

"We're still dealing with those same things, right?" Coonrod added. "That Walnut Street Bridge means so much more than just being a pedestrian bridge ... It's time for us to embrace that and tell that story more, not just at that site. We need to tell the history of how black people have been affected here in Chattanooga."

The Times Free Press previously reported that Meadows' design will include three life-sized statues, one representing Johnson and each of his two attorneys, at the south end of the bridge, surrounded by stone walls. Down-slope toward the Tennessee River will be reminders of three other Chattanooga lynchings, including the murder of Alfred Blount on the same bridge.

The roughly $500,000 project will be constructed beginning in early June and likely will be completed in spring 2021, according to Chattanooga Mayor's Office Chief of Staff Kerry Hayes.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @_sarahgtaylor.

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File photo / Pictured are a models of the three central figures in the Ed Johnson Memorial by sculptor Jerome Meadows.
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