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Foundation Forward gifts Jackson County with framed Civil Rights Document

Last updated on April 24, 2023

By Kristin Fox

At their regular session meeting this week, Jackson County Commissioners were presented with a gift from Foundation Forward, Inc. David Streater and Ron Lewis from the nonprofit organization presented a framed document titled Civil Rights Amendments.

Foundation Forward, Inc. is an educational non-profit that installs life-size replicas of the United States’ Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in communities across America. The framed Civil Rights Amendment document was gifted to Jackson County in the hopes, like the Charters of Freedom, that it will be prominently displayed for the public to view. 

In 2016, Jackson County raised the $20,000 needed to build brick displays to hold the bronze version of the Charters of Freedom. The monuments are located at the Mark Watson Park in Sylva. 

Lewis began his presentation recognizing the Jackson County maintenance department and veterans.

“Without hesitation, it is probably the best maintained Charters of Freedom in the country and I give all the credit to your maintenance crew, they have done a marvelous job,” said Lewis. “Jackson County’s monument is one of the ones I am the proudest of, because your veterans stepped up to the plate. They were willing to work worked diligently and did a marvelous job to make sure the Charters of Freedom happened in Jackson County.”

The ultimate goal of Foundation Forward, Inc. is to have Charters of Freedom monuments prominently displayed in all 100 counties of North Carolina. Jackson County’s monuments were one of the first 10 built in the state. Currently in North Carolina, the organization has built and dedicated 26, four others have been constructed but not dedicated and five are currently under construction.

“As we began installing the Charters of Freedom around the country, we realized from our personal experiences that the circle was not complete,” said Lewis. “As displayed in the National Archives building in Washington we have replicated the Charters of Freedom with the Declaration of Independence being on the left, the four pages of The Constitution in the middle and the original proposed Bill of Rights on the right, to take that experience and duplicate it across the country.”

“We realized there was a void in the organization so we gathered in the conference room in Valdese, North Carolina where our headquarters are and put our heads together,” he added. “We came up with this Civil Rights Amendment document which includes the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th and 24th amendments, the amendments that make us all the same, Americans first.”

This framed document features the amendments to the Constitution that abolished slavery, guaranteed African-Americans the right to vote, guaranteed women the right to vote and abolished the poll tax.

“When Thomas Jefferson and James Madison went to Philadelphia to draft the Constitution they took with them what is called the Virginia Papers which actually abolished slavery; however, they quickly realized they would not have the vote to get it passed,” said Lewis. “But the brilliance was that they had the foresight to put within the Constitution the ability for the Constitution to be amended. As society changed, as our country changed, as we grew and became a world power, it was afforded an opportunity to be amended; henceforth these amendments, which makes us all the same.”

“We created this document to recognize that the circle has been completed, and we are all the same under the United States Constitution,” he added. “It is our pleasure to gift to you this framed version of those amendments to Jackson County. We hope you will display it in a prominent location and maybe choose to share it on occasion with the schools.” 

The commissioners did not state where the framed document will be displayed.

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