Opinion: Expanding Stone Mountain’s history

Focusing on truths and documented facts will guide us in the mission to make the park representative of today’s Georgia and America.
An aerial photograph shows Memorial Hall (foreground) and Confederate Memorial Carving (background) at Stone Mountain Park on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

An aerial photograph shows Memorial Hall (foreground) and Confederate Memorial Carving (background) at Stone Mountain Park on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Serving as a pastor for nearing 50 years, as well as living as a Black man in America, a country I love, has taught me a great deal about the virtue of patience. The most real and lasting changes I have witnessed in our nation have occurred in increments and over time, versus vast, sweeping change, which often involves the pendulum swinging back.

I was honored, then and now, when two years ago our Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp asked me to become Chair of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. I had been on the board for a couple of years at hat point and had been preceded by other Black business and community leaders serving on the board, including Hank Aaron, DeKalb County CEO Mike Thurmond and philanthropist and entrepreneur Greg Levett. However I was the first Black man asked to serve as board chair, and it is not lost on me the times in which I was stepping into the role, or the crosshairs that our nation’s largest Confederate monument remains in for some.

I am a man of the cloth, not a physician, but I am also familiar with the many downsides of picking at scabs and long-healed wounds. The American South, Black and white, has spent more than 150 years healing from the throes of the Civil War, and for my people, nearly 300 additional years of enslavement. Those emotions on that aspect of our history remain raw, on both sides. We have come a long way as a nation and as a people, but much work remains to be done.

Rev. Abraham Mosley

Credit: contributed

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Credit: contributed

Georgia’s 3,400-acre Stone Mountain Park sprawls across the eastern side of DeKalb County, one of Georgia’s most populous counties, and for several decades now majority-minority in both its population as well as its elected political leadership. The city of Stone Mountain wraps around the western corner of the park and has an even higher concentration of African American population. And perhaps surprisingly, when visiting our park on most any day, exercising, enjoying nature or on a quiet sojourn to the mountain’s top, you will see many of these same park neighbors, and almost all of them are smiling.

To acknowledge these changing times we live in, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association logo now features the southern face of the mountain, as well as Stone Mountain Lake. We remind others daily that our responsibilities extend well beyond the stewardship of the carving and other Confederate memorials, to include two hotels, two golf courses and a wide array of family-friendly attractions and amenities, with more offerings yet to come.

We recently completed the relocation of the Confederate Flag Plaza to Valor Park, underneath the memorial carving, and the U.S. and Georgia flags now fly at the base of the Stone Mountain Walk Up Trail.

Long overdue recognition has been given to the Washington W. King-College Street Bridge on the back side of our park, constructed by hand and designed by the son of a freed slave and now on the National Register of Historic Places.

The SMMA board has finalized the contract with Warner Museums to begin work on a “truth-telling” exhibit about the mountain carving and its origins, as well as the “Lost Cause” mythology that followed the Civil War. The Civil War and Civil Rights eras will serve as meaningful bookends for this new museum exhibit, and the stories we will focus on in our park are, in many ways, the story of the American South.

While we cannot please everyone, focusing on truths and documented facts will guide us in this mission, and our work will likely never be completed fast enough in the eyes of those on either side of this cavernous divide.

And as the Old Testament so often reminds us, even the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. We have taken many of those promised steps already, with many more yet to come. Please join us in moving Georgia’s most visited park and tourism destination together into the future.

Rev. Abraham Mosley is chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association.