Bridge for John Lewis
In this drawing, Dial depicts the civil rights leader John Lewis crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, a reference to his role as a leader of the 1965 march collectively remembered as Bloody Sunday. On the left, Dial has represented the rural South with its shotgun houses, shacks, and trees. On the right, he has drawn the skyscrapers and buildings of the city. Dial’s bridge shows Lewis as a symbolic link between the two communities, and as the personification of rural to urban migration experienced by so many African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century. Dial has always felt a certain kinship with Lewis, who was born, like Dial, to a family of sharecropping farmers in rural Alabama. Lewis later found his calling as both a civil rights leader and a congressman. Over the years, Dial has created several works about Lewis, including a monumental outdoor sculpture, The Bridge, permanently installed in Atlanta’s Freedom Park. The drawing and sculpture show the same image of Lewis crossing the Pettus Bridge in the fight for civil rights, part of a longer journey that he and others made from the rural South to America’s urban centers, seeking new opportunities in a changing world.