Atlanta forms committee to review Confederate monuments and streets

Alan Keck, left, debates Katie Kurumada on Boulevard in Grant Park. They are discussing the proposed name change of Confederate Avenue.

Alan Keck, left, debates Katie Kurumada on Boulevard in Grant Park. They are discussing the proposed name change of Confederate Avenue.

An advisory committee has been formed to review Confederate street names and city-owned monuments in Atlanta.

The confederate monuments advisory committee will evaluate each marker and “recommend how the community can be involved in the process to determine the handling of each landmark,” the city announced Friday.

Mayor Kasim Reed said renewed attention was brought to Confederate markers after "the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia." Heather Heyer died and others were injured after being struck in August by a car at a "Unite the Right" demonstration of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and members of the KKK in Charlottesville.

A committee was assembled to approach the decisions “in a thoughtful manner,” Reed said in a statement.

Reed appointed six members to the committee and City Council named five members earlier this month. The committee will look to historians, business leaders and residents to provide context and perspective, city officials said.

One of Reed’s appointees was Sonji Jacobs, senior director of corporate affairs at Cox Enterprises, which also owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jacobs was previously the director of communications for Mayor Kasim Reed and, prior to that, a reporter for The AJC.

Jacobs said the “conversation and work” to be tackled by the committee is important.

“We’ve seen far too many examples of how a lack of understanding and dialogue can lead to deep rifts in a community or city,” Jacobs said. “This committee brings together a sharp, engaged group of Atlanta leaders to help ensure our city is thoughtful and deliberate about how we recognize and learn from the past so that we can build a better future.”

Attempts to reach other committee members late Friday afternoon were not successful.

City Councilman Kwanza Hall, who is one of 11 candidates running for mayor, said since Reed first announced that he planned to form a panel in August, the work had already begun.

In response to a question at the Atlanta Press Club mayoral debate Thursday — which is airing Sunday at 10 a.m. on PBA30 — Hall said statues and other objects belong in museums where they can be presented with historical context.

“We're going in the right direction, I do believe, in removing any vestiges of the past, racism, discrimination or hatred that are still symbolic,” he said. "Hatred has no place in our society, especially in our city.”

Former mayor Maynard Jackson changed the name of Forrest Avenue, in Atlanta, which had been named after a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, Hall pointed out.

The first committee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 18 at Atlanta City Hall.

The committee members are:

· Sonji Jacobs, senior director of corporate affairs at Cox Enterprises;

· Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of Atlanta History Center;

· Derreck Kayongo, CEO of Center for Civil and Human Rights;

· Dan Moore, founder of APEX Museum;

· Shelley Rose, senior associate director of Anti-Defamation League’s southeast region;

· Larry Gallerstedt, CEO of Cousins Properties and trustee of Robert Woodruff Foundation;

· Douglas Blackmon, senior fellow and director of public programs at University of Virginia’s Miller Center

· Nina Gentry, owner of Gentry Planning Services;

· Regina Brewer, preservation consultant;

· Martha Porter Hall, community advocate;

· Brenda Muhammad, executive director of Atlanta Victim Assistance.

Staff writer Arielle Kass contributed to this report.

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