Georgia Rep. John Lewis turned down an invitation to attend the opening of The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum on Saturday as a triggered response to Trump’s “attendance and his hurtful policies [being] an insult to the people portrayed” in the museum, he said in a release.
“After careful consideration and conversations with church leaders, elected officials, civil rights activists, and many citizens of our congressional districts, we have decided not to attend or participate in the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum,” Lewis said in a joint statement with U.S. Rep Bennie Thompson, Mississippi’s only Democrat in Congress.
Lewis continued: “The struggles represented in this museum exemplify the truth of what really happened in Mississippi. President Trump’s disparaging comments about women, the disabled, immigrants, and National Football League players disrespect the efforts of Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Medgar Evers, Robert Clark, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and countless others who have given their all for Mississippi to be a better place.”
The announcement of Trump’s appearance at the long-planned opening has soured the spirit of the ground-breaking event for many Black politicians and organizations. What was supposed to be a racially unifying moment marking Mississippi’s bicentennial of admission into the union has already come under scrutiny with Republican Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant extending an invite to Trump.
Members of the NAACP have also denounced the president’s visit and urged a cancellation due to “his divisive record on civil rights issues,” The Associated Press reported.
Lewis, a civil rights icon, was being eyed as one of the main speakers at the opening. Myrlie Evers, the widow of assassinated Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers, will speak at the event and have some words for the president.
“If God gives me the breath and the strength, I will address his attendance when I stand to speak,” Evers told The New York Times.
The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, primarily focused on Black history from 1945 to 1976, confronts the fight against segregation and bigotry as well as the horrifying backlash against abolitionism. Displays of slave chains, Ku Klux Klan robes, gruesome photos of lynchings and firebombings will be featured.
Lewis encouraged Americans to go to the museum, especially poignant for people of color.
“After President Trump departs,” he said, “we encourage all Mississippians and Americans to visit this historic civil rights museum.”
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