Born and bred in Sparta, in the heart of Georgia’s Black Belt in Hancock County, and pastoring to my flock at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens, for nearing five decades, I can tell you, without fear of equivocation that my people have come a long way.
And I can just as easily and honestly say -- yet we have a long way to go. That is in part why I accepted the honor and request from my friend, Gov. Brian Kemp, to join the board of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association (SMMA) and to more recently become its board chair.
The Stone Mountain Park of today is more than 3,400 acres, with a wide array of options for individuals, families and groups who visit. Though the pandemic has definitely hit our bottom line, we still draw more than 3 million people annually through our gates and are Georgia’s most visited destination.
This great rock has had many pasts, purposes and prior owners. The state of Georgia’s time driving this big bus is comparatively short. It was an Indian burial ground for centuries, a granite quarry for nearly 100 years and its stone forms the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, one side of our U.S. Capitol and the walls of Fort Knox. For a time, it was also home to one of the darkest episodes in Georgia history, including the rebirth of the Klu Klux Klan in 1915, and for nearly 50 more years, the home of Klan rallies atop the mountain.
Much has happened in Georgia, during the century between the Civil War, and the wrongs being righted during the Civil Rights movement. The burning of Atlanta was the beginning of the end of the Confederacy, and the Civil Rights movement was also birthed and nurtured here in Atlanta and Georgia. There is no better place than here to tell the story of the “dash” between those two big bookmarks of history.
A number of changes have been proposed for Stone Mountain Park. I will not list all of them here, as they have been well-reported elsewhere, other than to say that our board intends to vote to approve and move, with all due diligent speed, on several of the proposed changes. Among the most important to me, is an honest and complete telling of history, warts and all.
Memorial Hall, which faces the Confederate carving, will become home to this new museum exhibit. Confederate flags and monuments, now dispersed across the park, will be consolidated into a roughly 50-acre area, including Heritage Square, Memorial Hall, its lawn and Sacrifice and Valor Parks, at the base of either side of the mountain carving.
To secure and protect our Confederate Battle Flag Plaza, donated to the SMMA by the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy, those flags will eventually fly in a new home in Valor Park at the base of the carving, and directly under the watchful gaze of the three horsemen.
A number of roadways, trails, ponds and lakes within our vast green space will likely be renamed. I am not a particular fan of naming public assets for people, as the times and public sentiments change, but as a pastor, I see a lot more benefit in naming with words like Unity, Union, United, Freedom and Reconciliation.
I am also hopeful that in the not too distant future, I will be able to preach a sermon from atop the mountain and our new, outdoor Faith and Freedom Chapel. We receive requests almost weekly to hold services atop the mountain, but also for weddings, life celebrations, graduations commencements, etc. This will give us another unique venue, as well as an incredible view of our capital city.
There is likely no single choice or series of actions we can take that will go far enough for those who want to erase all Confederate symbology and any monument, as well as for those who wish to continue reverence of even the more intolerable aspects of the Confederate legacy which contains both heritage and hate.
As it’s written in Hebrews 10:24-25, this is a time to “Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This is the day, and the time is now -- onward and upward.
Rev. Abraham Mosley is chair of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association.