STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. - The Stone Mountain Memorial Association is considering making a number of changes to the park in a year when revenue is down 56 percent due to the pandemic.
Some of the changes include creating a new museum exhibit that tells the story of the mountain carving, acknowledging the Ku Klux Klan activity that took place, changing the Confederate horseman logo of the park, and renaming some streets, lakes, and trails and more.
The proposals come amid a national reckoning on race that brought down dozens of Confederate monuments in a span of weeks last year.
"Economically, we cannot stay where we are. Change is inevitable. We can either take charge of it or we can wave a white flag," said Bill Stephens, Stone Mountain Memorial Association C.E.O.
Many of the Confederate monuments that are now controversial were erected in the early 1900s by groups composed of women and veterans. Some honor generals or soldiers; others bear inscriptions that critics say wrongly gloss over slavery as a reason for the war or portray the Confederate cause as noble. Stone Mountain’s carving — which measures 190 feet across and 90 feet tall — was completed in 1972 and shows the three Confederate leaders mounted on horseback.
The coalition last year proposed that the association remove Confederate flags at the base of the mountain, change the names of streets and other park features with Confederate affiliations and refocus the park around such themes as racial reconciliation and justice. Meymoona Freeman, a leader of the group, said it wanted to see the carving of Lee, Davis and Jackson transformed into a natural space.
The sculpture has special protection enshrined in Georgia law, and Stephens said it wasn’t going anywhere.
Some speakers at Monday’s meeting said the changes before the board didn’t go far enough. State Representative Billy Mitchell wants the mountain carving to come down too and so he's introduced legislation to give the board more flexibility to do so.
The board could vote on at least some of the proposals next month. Gov. Brian Kemp appointed the board’s first African American chair — Rev. Abraham Mosley — last week.
Mosley said after the meeting he supported the proposals but wanted to see more changes.
"I think this is a first step to a lot of good things to come here at the Stone Mountain Park. It’s just going to take time to get there," Mosley said.
The park 15 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta is a popular hiking and tourist destination but is replete with Confederate imagery, including a colossal sculpture of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson on the mountain’s northern face. It is the largest Confederate monument ever crafted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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