Archived: MLK Monument on Stone Mountain Meets Resistance

By Sheryl Estrada

A monument to honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on top of Stone Mountain will rest above a carving of key figures of the Confederacy.

A monument to honor slaincivil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., planned for the top of Stone Mountain Park in Georgia, is being opposedby the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Sons of Confederacy albeit for very different reasons.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association approved a monument for King, which will be an elevated tower featuring a replica of the Liberty Bell.

An inscription will include a line from King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech: “Let Freedom Ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.” A permanent exhibit on Black soldiers in the Civil War is also planned for the park, which is state-owned and privately operated. Park revenue is said to finance both projects.

“It is one of the best-known speeches in U.S. history,” Bill Stephens, the chief executive officer of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association said. “We think it’s a great addition to the historical offerings we have here.”

Leaders of the Atlanta and DeKalb branches of the NAACP and the SCLC, co-founded by King in 1957, met with Deal on Wednesday asking him to end the plans for a monument. The civil rights groups said they are opposed to building a monument dedicated to King where racism once thrived. The monument will be yards away from a location on top of the mountain where the Ku Klux Klan was reborn in 1915 and the site of cross burnings and rallies.

“The proposal to include Dr. King [on Stone Mountain] is simply to confuse Black folk about the issues,” John Evans, president of the DeKalb County branch of the NAACP said. “It’s an attempt to gain support from Blacks to keep these racist and demeaning symbols.”

Georgia state park is also home to a carving measuring90 by 190 feetof former Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson three key figures of the pro-slavery Confederate states. The carving took more than 50 years to create and was completed in 1972. The King monument would be above this carving.

Following the killings of nine church members in Charleston, S.C., by Dylann Roof in June, the NAACP in Atlanta called for the removal of all Confederate symbols from Stone Mountain Park, including sand-blasting the carving.

“That carving is a great piece of art, but it was commissioned out of hate and white supremacy,” Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, said in July. “The state should not be supporting or condoning white supremacy with my tax dollars.”

According to WSB, SCLC President Charles Steele questioned why the state would place a reference to King, “one of Georgia’s most favorite sons, anywhere near these three traitors”

Meanwhile, the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans said a monument to King would “disrespect” Confederate heroes. Stone Mountain became a memorial to the Confederacy by state law.

The organizationannounced its disapproval last week:

This decision by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association is wholly inappropriate in that it is an intentional act of disrespect toward the stated purpose of the Stone Mountain memorial from its inception as well as a possible violation of the law which established the Stone Mountain Memorial Association and charged it with promoting the mountain as a Confederate memorial The erection of monuments to anyone other than Confederate heroes in Stone Mountain Park is in contradistinction to the purpose for which the park exists and would make it a memorial to something different.

Dealsaid on Mondayhe will no longer be involved in the discussion on the monument. He offered to set up a meeting for leaders of the SCLC andNAACP with the state authority overseeing the property.Specific details still need to be addressed regarding the monument, though, including the state getting permission from the King estate to use the line from “I Have a Dream,” as the speech is copyrighted.

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