Memorial artist says George Floyd death similar to Ed Johnson lynching

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Construction on the Ed Johnson Memorial at the Walnut Street Bridge has begun, during a time of racial unrest.

“We need the message now more than ever,” Ed Johnson Committee co-chair Steve Derthick said.

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Peaceful protests, race riots, and marred monuments. The nation is at an impasse of constant controversy over racial injustice and the death of George Floyd.

As work on the Ed Johnson Memorial begins in Chattanooga, the memorial’s artist Jerome Meadows recognizes the similarities of Floyd and Johnson’s deaths — despite being 114 years apart.

“We’re dealing currently now with the same issues that affected Ed Johnson,” Meadows said. “I like to consider the comparison between now the lynching is your knee to the neck as opposed to a rope.”

In the wake of Floyd’s death, Confederate monuments are coming down all across the South. The Ed Johnson Memorial will take that change a step further.

“We could talk about tearing something down because of the negative representation, but what is timely about this Ed Johnson Memorial is that we’re actually proactively bringing forth an aspect of the story from a black man’s point of view that brings a truth to bear that had long been overlooked,” Meadows said.

“Without the truth, you can’t get to reconciliation,” Ed Johnson Committee co-chair LaFrederick Thirkill said. “Sometimes, the truth isn’t always easy, and sometimes, the truth isn’t pretty. But you have to walk through the truth and own it before you can get to the next step of healing.”

The monument itself will be placed at the beginning of next year, in time for its March dedication.

“This is about projecting strength and ways of coming together to keep our yesterdays and the horrors of those from becoming our tomorrow, so we can finally put this issue to rest,” Meadows said.

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Angela joined the News 12 team in November of 2017 as the weekend sports anchor and reporter. Angela is a proud member of an Army family, which means she has hometowns all over the Eastern Seaboard. Most recently, she calls Peachtree City, Georgia, home, where she graduated from Trinity Christian School and spent her free time driving her purple golf cart. She then headed to Milledgeville, Georgia, to attend Georgia College and State University. A proud Bobcat, Angela graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Mass Communication and represented her December 2016 class as one of three valedictorians. Angela comes to the Scenic City from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she worked at the NBC affiliate, WMBF News. Before the big move, she worked as Georgia College's Sports Information Assistant, which let her get paid to be the Bobcats' biggest fan. It all started in Savannah, Georgia, though, where she interned for SAV's number one station, WTOC. When she's not working, you can find Angela watching the New York Giants, Rangers or basically any other game that's on. She also loves traveling, hiking and exploring new places, all with her camera in hand. If you have any story ideas, big or small, feel free to reach out to her on Facebook and Twitter, or email her at amoryan@wdef.com."