Artist Preston Jackson is working on a bust of the late minister, civil rights activist and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s field general during the Civil Rights Movement, Cordy Tindell (C.T.) Vivian. His career of activism spanned over six decades. He passed away on July 17 of natural causes at the age of 95.
Vivian was born on July 30, 1924, in Boonville, MO. His family relocated to Macomb, IL when he was a young child. Vivian spent his formative years in Illinois. He attended Lincoln Grade Middle School and Edison Junior High School. Vivian attended Western Illinois University, studied history and worked as a sports editor for the student newspaper. Vivian stated at a presentation at WIU in 2010, “I would never have been who I was if not for Macomb, Illinois.”
His activism began in his first lunch counter sit-in in Peoria, IL, to successfully integrate Barton’s Cafeteria in the 1940s. During the Civil Rights Movement, Vivian was on the front line of marches, lunch counter sit-ins, and boycotts against businesses across the South to fight segregation. He was beaten and jailed several times.
In 1965, Vivian boldly challenged segregationist sheriff, Jim Clark, while trying to register blacks to vote in front of the courthouse entrance in Selma, AL. Vivian said, “You can turn your back now, and you can keep your club in your hand, but you cannot beat down justice. And we will register to vote because as citizens of these United States we have the right to do it,” wagging his index finger at Sheriff Jim Clark. As the camera rolled, the sheriff punched Vivian in the face causing him to stumble down the courthouse steps bleeding. The incident brought national attention to Selma’s voting right efforts.
For Vivian’s decades of work in civil rights, he received an honorary doctorate from Western Illinois University, and the City of Macomb issued an honorary designation of C.T. Vivian Way from University Drive to Carroll Street. In 2013, Vivian was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama.
Jackson is raising money to create a sculpture of Vivian in at least three cities where he lived and where he was greatly influenced in Macomb, IL, Peoria, IL, and Atlanta, GA.
Jackson’s work is seen in the following cities in Illinois: Georgiana Rose Simpson bust, Chicago, IL, Fred Hampton bust, Maywood, IL; Richard Pryor statue, Peoria, IL; Miles Davis statue, Alton, IL; and the 1908 Springfield Race Riot Monument, Springfield, IL.
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