Unless you’ve been living off the grid (or in denial) you know the story: In spring 2016, Zyahna Bryant wrote an open letter to City Council, calling for the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue and the renaming of the downtown public park bearing Lee’s name.
“When I think of Robert E. Lee, I instantly think of someone fighting in favor of slavery,” she began her letter. “Thoughts of physical harm, cruelty, and disenfranchisement flood my mind.”
Bryant wrote that she was disgusted with the “selective display of history” in the city. “There is more to Charlottesville than just the memories of Confederate fighters. There is more to this city that makes it great. …I struggle with the fact that meaningful things that are unique to Charlottesville are constantly overlooked. I believe that we should celebrate the things that have been done in this great city to uplift and bring people together, rather than trying to divide them.”
Bryant was just 15, a student at Charlottesville High School, at the time.
This week, Bryant herself was celebrated for her work: On March 1, at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, Bryant’s image became part of the “Americans Who Tell the Truth” portrait series by contemporary American painter Robert Shetterly.