Activists blast slow-moving changes at Stone Mountain Park

April 20, 2021 Stone Mountain - Park goers walk around  the Memorial Lawn at Stone Mountain Park on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
April 20, 2021 Stone Mountain - Park goers walk around the Memorial Lawn at Stone Mountain Park on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Groups want more substantive changes to Confederate imagery

The state authority that governs Stone Mountain Park took no official action Monday to advance previously approved changes to Confederate imagery at the sprawling tourist attraction.

Activists, meanwhile, renewed their calls for a more substantive transformation.

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association’s board of directors — which is tasked by Georgia law with maintaining an “appropriate and suitable” memorial to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain Park — approved last month a handful of initiatives that they hope will soften the park’s divisive reputation.

ExploreWhat 'telling the truth' about Stone Mountain might look like

Those changes include relocating Confederate flags that have long flown at the base of the mountain’s walk-up trail, as well as creating an on-site museum exhibit to “tell the truth” about the ugly history of the park and the massive carving of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee that adorns the mountain’s northern face.

Neither topic was discussed during Monday’s meeting of the memorial association.

CEO Bill Stephens said afterward that the association was “gathering artist renderings and cost estimates” for relocating the Confederate flag plaza to another area away from the heavily trafficked walk-up trail. More information could be available in August, Stephens said.

He also said that the seven-member committee that’s being formed to guide the creation of the contextualizing museum exhibit is on track to be assembled by July. Several “prominent historians” are being considered for inclusion, Stephens said.

The memorial association board did discuss another initiative — changing its logo to remove a depiction of the Confederate carving. No action was taken.

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All of those considerations represent a significant shift in the way the memorial association has historically approached Confederate imagery at the park, but they are incremental changes — and activists continue to call for more.

The Stone Mountain Action Coalition and partners with local branches of the NAACP, the National Council of Negro Women and other organizations held a press conference following Monday’s meeting.

They called on Gov. Brian Kemp, who appoints members to the memorial association and holds considerable sway over their actions, to push for “meaningful, positive and transformative changes” at the park. They criticized the failure to consider things like renaming streets and attractions named for Confederate leaders and Klansmen, and continued calling for real conversations about addressing the carving itself.

“This is a choice they’re making,” said Sheri Lake, a co-founder of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition, a grassroots activist group that formed last summer. “They have a lot of power to do a lot of things here. But they’re making a deliberate choice not to do that.”

Lake said she had “zero confidence” in the memorial association creating an accurate and comprehensive museum exhibit that includes the park and the carving’s deep historical connections with the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacy and resistance to desegregation.

Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta NAACP, said it doesn’t really matter if they do or don’t — because it’s not enough.

“It’s nothing,” Rose said. “It doesn’t address the real issues.”