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Plan to Honor MLK at Confederate Monument Draws Fire From Both Sides

A new plan to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. at Stone Mountain, Ga. has sparked controversy on both sides. Stone Mountain is a large granite formation 15 miles east of Atlanta. It is also home to a huge monument honoring Confederate heroes Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

Stone Mountain was also the site of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915. The revival was sparked by the release of the racist film, Birth of a Nation. Stone Mountain served as a meeting place for the KKK until gatherings were banned by the state of Georgia in 1958. However, a Georgia law stipulates that Stone Mountain remain a museum for the Confederacy. The monument is close to a predominantly Black neighborhood just outside Atlanta and has become a popular local vacation spot.

However, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which oversees the property, wants to change its past association with the Confederacy. The group is proposing constructing a tower to honor Martin Luther King. The tower will feature a replica of the Liberty Bell, which is mentioned in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

The plan for the tower came from Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jim Galloway. Galloway said that after the Charleston church massacre, Stone Mountain should put forward a more “three-dimensional” history of the South.

The plan has met with opposition from pro-Confederate groups. Ray McBerry, a spokesperson for the Georgia Sons of Confederate Veterans, said adding the MLK memorial to Stone Mountain would “distract from memorializing Confederate history.”

“I believe that the specific memorial that has been proposed to put on top of Stone Mountain is specifically to invite the issue of race into Confederate heritage where it has no place,” said McBerry in an interview with NPR.

McBerry is not the only person unhappy with the plan. Georgia State Sen. Vincent Fort feels placing a bell on top of the mountain would dishonor King’s memory. Fort has also drafted a bill that would outlaw Confederate memorials on state grounds.

“It’s as if the evil that those slave-owning Confederates perpetrated is somehow ameliorated by the presence of a monument for Dr. King,” Fort told NPR.

And to add another complication, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association still needs to get permission from the King family to use the copyrighted line from the “I Have a Dream” speech. King’s children are currently in a legal battle over his estate.

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