Civil rights activist, broadcast pioneer receives statue in downtown Atlanta

ATLANTA — This International Women’s Day marked a new chapter in Atlanta’s history as the first statue of a black woman was unveiled. The bronze statue honors civil right activist and broadcast pioneer Xernona Clayton.

And its placement along Peachtree Street isn’t lost on her.

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“I, Xernona Clayton was thrown out of a hotel. Now you’re standing and backed by a street named Xernona Clayton Way,” said Clayton.

She’s a small woman, but her legacy is mighty. She was personally invited to come to Atlanta in 1961 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Xernona Clayton was one of the first that stood with Dr. King on Auburn Avenue,” Ambassador Andrew Young recalled.

She was knee deep in the civil rights movement, organizing events for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and later went on to have a successful career as a broadcast journalist. Clayton then became an executive, going on to create the Trumpet Awards.


“I do it because I’m motivated in my heart and soul to do what Dr. King says; feed the hungry and clothe the naked and that’s what I try to do every day,” said Clayton.

This statue was years in the making. But for city leaders and organizers, it’s one they wanted to make sure was seen by 93-year-old Clayton. A salute to a fading generation who shaped our world today.

“You have had a front row seat to a good deal of Atlanta’s history mainly because you had a hand in a lot of Atlanta’s history,” said Mayor Andre Dickens.

“Ms. Clayton is leading us and left us a blueprint,” added Martin Luther King III.

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Her impact is one that Clayton hopes will inspire those who follow.

“If my life can influence somebody else to do good then maybe their lives and it goes on and on and on,” she said.