Stone Mountain Memorial Association removes carving — from its logo

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Other approved changes to Confederate imagery slow moving

The Stone Mountain Memorial Association voted Monday to change its logo, adopting a new emblem that does not include an homage to the mountain’s massive carving of Confederate leaders.

Few Georgians are familiar with the memorial association, the state authority tasked with running Stone Mountain Park. And fewer still have occasion to come across its logo. That makes the move largely symbolic — but part of bigger effort that leaders hope will soften the park’s reputation as a bastion for Confederate sympathy.

The old logo consisted of the memorial association’s initials and an illustrated close-up of the carving of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

The new one features a more natural view of the mountain, greenery and a surrounding lake.

“I think we’ve got the right one,” said Joan Bostick Thomas, vice chair of the memorial association’s board.

While the logo swap moved forward Monday, other more substantive initiatives are still in progress.

The memorial association is in the process of assembling a committee to create a new on-site museum exhibit that officials say will lay out the ugly truth about Stone Mountain and its carving, which historians say has ties to the Jim Crow era, the Ku Klux Klan and “massive resistance” to federally mandated school integration.

The carving was first proposed in 1915, as the controversial film “Birth of a Nation” rolled out across the country and the United Daughters of the Confederacy were engaged in a concerted effort to preserve their spin on the causes of the Civil War. The second Ku Klux Klan was born on Stone Mountain the same year.

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

A variety of issues left the carving partially finished and work wasn’t resumed until decades later. Just a few weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 decision on school segregation, eventual Georgia Gov. Marvin Griffin vowed on the campaign trail that the state would purchase the mountain and finish the carving.

Stone Mountain Park opened in 1965 and the carving was completed in 1972.

Memorial association CEO Bill Stephens has said the seven-member committee tasked with creating the truth-telling exhibit will include community leaders and historians. The original plan was for the team to be assembled before Monday’s meeting, but that did not happen.

Stephens said the memorial association is in “final discussions” with two historians and an announcement could be made within two weeks or so.

“We’re still working on that, and hopefully in the near future we’ll have everybody in place to go forward,” board chair Rev. Abraham Mosley said.

ExploreStone Mountain Park seeks new private business partner

The memorial association board has also approved relocating several Confederate flags that have long flown at the base of the mountain’s walk-up trail, the most heavily trafficked area of the park.

Officials have said Georgia state laws protecting Confederate monuments prevents them from removing the flags altogether, so they have proposed reconstructing a new flag plaza in “Valor Park,” a small area near the base of the mountain that’s already home to other tributes to the Civil War South.

Stephens said he’s gathering proposals from contractors for the relocation. He did not have a potential timeline for the project.

Whenever they happen, the changes currently on the table are unlikely to make anyone happy.

ExplorePhotos: Confederate memorials in metro Atlanta

Advocates at the Atlanta NAACP, DeKalb County NAACP and the Stone Mountain Action Coalition have said the memorial association’s plans — which are largely driven by financial pressures — don’t go nearly far enough.

Groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans want the park to more tightly embrace its Confederate ties and have gone so far as to pitch reimagining the park as a destination for “heritage tourism.”

The prospects for that proposal are not good, but the memorial association is seeking a new private business partner.

Silver Dollar City/Stone Mountain Park, a subsidiary of Peachtree Corners-based Herschend Family Entertainment, has run attractions like the skylift, the laser show, shops and convention space since they were privatized in the late 1990s. But the firm is pulling out next summer, citing “protests and division” among its reasons.

The memorial association last month issued a request for proposals for businesses interested in taking over those operations. Final bids are due until Sept. 8

Stephens said “several different companies” expressed interest and are moving forward with the process.

  • 1915

    The founding of the second Ku Klux Klan takes place at Stone Mountain, when a handful of founders burn a cross on top of the mountain.

  • 1916

    Sam Venable, a Klan-affiliated businessman who owns the mountain and operates it as a granite quarry, leases its north face to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

  • 1923

    Carving starts on the massive mountainside tribute to Confederate leaders. Gutzon Borglum – a reputed white supremacist who would go on to work on Mount Rushmore – is the original sculptor.

  • 1925

    Borglum leaves after about two years, with only the head of Gen. Robert E. Lee completed. Work continues for a time but is ultimately halted by financial issues.

  • 1941

    Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge attempts to revive work on the carving but is thwarted by World War II.

  • 1958

    With Brown v. Board of Education recently decided and the Civil Rights Movement looming, the state of Georgia purchases Stone Mountain for about $1.1 million. The memorial association becomes a state authority tasked with maintaining a monument to the Confederacy. Carving resumes.

  • 1965

    Stone Mountain Park officially opens, on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

  • 1970

    The carving of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee is dedicated. The sculpture itself measures 190 feet across 90 feet tall, with a carved-out backdrop covering about three acres.

  • 1983

    Stone Mountain Park hosts its first laser show.

  • 1998

    The park's money-generating attractions are privatized, as the state partners with Silver Dollar City, an arm of Herschend Family Entertainment.

  • 2019

    Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs new law increasing protections for Confederate monuments.

  • 2020

    The deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans at the hands of police – and Ahmaud Arbery at the hands of white neighbors in Brunswick, Ga. – spark nationwide protests. Attention again turns to Confederate monuments; many across the country, and in nearby Decatur, are taken down. An activist group called the Stone Mountain Action Coalition and others launch a new push for dramatic changes to the Confederate imagery at Stone Mountain Park.

  • 2020

    Silver Dollar City notifies state officials that the company will be ending its lease to operate revenue-generating attractions in summer 2022. It cites the COVID-19 pandemic and frequent tensions at the park.

  • 2021

    Rev. Abraham Mosley, a pastor from Athens, becomes the first Black chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association.