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The lasting legacy of Julia Etta Lewis

We’re taking a look at the life + legacy of civil rights leader Julia Etta Lewis and how she is remembered locally today.

A painted wall with Julietta's face and logo on it

Julietta Market was opened in its namesake’s honor in 2020. | Photo by LEXtoday

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Sunday, Dec. 4 marked 24 years since the passing of local civil rights activist, Julia Etta Lewis. If you’re thinking that name sounds familiar, here’s why.

Julia’s memory + legacy has been carried on through the Julietta Market at Greyline Station — a space that holds special significance to her life and work.

Julietta, a nickname she received from those close to her, was a leader of the civil rights movement in Lexington in the 1960s. She was an instrumental member of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) + the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), arranging sit-ins and non-violent demonstrations throughout town.

Much of her efforts focused on the segregation in entertainment businesses like restaurants, stores, movie theaters + hotels.

One notable site of a sit-in was the old Phoenix Hotel. Julietta, fellow members of CORE + the NAACP “sat day after day in the hotel’s restaurant waiting for someone to acknowledge their patronage,” according to VisitLex. The hotel changed its policies, sealing a success in the civil rights movement.

💙 Later in life

Julietta went on to live in Ann Arbor, MI for some time and returned home to Lexington where she worked at the Housing Authority for 14 years. She died in 1998 + is buried in the Lexington Cemetery. Julietta was posthumously inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2001.

A row of vendors inside Julietta Market

Julietta Market is the perfect place to shop + support local Lexington entrepreneurs. | Photo by LEXtoday

💙 Remembered today

A sign now sits at 100 E. Main St., the former site of the Phoenix Hotel, honoring the work of Julietta and others who fought for equality — “Women of the Movement - Voices in the Black Freedom Struggle.”

Julietta Market was created with Julietta’s values in mind: freedom, love, and equality. It provides a space + platform for community members to support themselves, their families, and pursue their dreams and passions. And now, Lexington is blessed with a thriving marketplace featuring artists, craftspeople, chefs, entrepreneurs + more.

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