By Rayne Reid Rayford, Essence
State legislators in Georgia introduced House Bill 794 to remove the official designation of Stone Mountain as a Confederate memorial, and delete the word “Memorial” from the official title of the park.
Stone Mountain, located in Georgia, is the largest Confederate memorial in the world. The monument stands 400 feet above ground, and is carved 42 feet deep, “with figures of General Lee, General Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson and President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis [that are] larger than the presidential visages of Mount Rushmore.”
HB 794 would change the name of the overseeing body to “Stone Mountain Park Association” from “Stone Mountain Memorial Association, and “would remove the requirement for the association to stock and sell Confederate memorabilia at attractions such as Memorial Hall or the Skyview gift shop…However, the biggest change would be the removal of the requirement to preserve the…[figures] on the front of Stone Mountain.”
State Reps. Omari Crawford, Billy Mitchell, and Mary Margaret Oliver introduced the bill, and all 16 members of the DeKalb County delegation have co-sponsored the legislation.
In a statement, Mitchell said, “We have been waiting too long for action by the Stone Mountain Memorial Authority to act on needed changes to the false history of the park and the carving…We do not understand the delay and wish to set forth the changes that we see as necessary.”
“I’m a proud product of DeKalb County, and Stone Mountain was integral to my development…The diversity of DeKalb County is an under-amplified gem in the great state of Georgia. Our ability to work together, despite of our diversity, is what makes DeKalb County unique. Honoring any Confederate history in an area with so much diversity is inconsistent with DeKalb County’s present-day values. It is time that our park reflects our evolution, said Crawford.
As Oliver stated, “I am a native of Georgia and DeKalb County, and Stone Mountain has been a part of all the stages of my life…The park is an important asset for our county and state and enjoys enormous popularity and use. As such, the park needs to change its statutory history of honoring the Confederacy and adherence to a ‘lost cause.’ This legislation is consistent with recommendations from other groups and historians who wish to set forth a more accurate history of the Stone Mountain Park and its carving.”
For critics of this bill with claims of needing to preserve history, interestingly enough, Stone Mountain has little to no historical significance as it relates to the Civil War—it was not even a battle site. But in 1915, the United Daughters of the Confederacy hired a sculptor to design a colossal monument to the Confederacy, coinciding with The Birth of A Nation movie’s debut, which “glorified the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan and Stone Mountain played a key role in its resurgence, marking its comeback with a cross burning atop the mountain on Thanksgiving night.” Fifty-seven years later, the sculpture was finally completed in 1972.
The timing of this bill is not inconspicuous—the host city for the Democratic National Convention next year has not yet been announced, and some pundits believe that Atlanta is not leaving anything up to chance that could jeopardize its position.