Should a towering monument of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. be erected on Stone Mountain, Georgia where the KKK once famously gathered for huge cross burnings and racist rants?
My gut instinct says no.
Black civil rights leaders are joining the Sons of Confederate Veterans to oppose a plan to construct a memorial for King on Stone Mountain, which has long been associated with racism, overt discrimination, the support of the Confederacy and outward push-back against African Americans who have moved into the area.
The Atlanta and DeKalb County branches of the NAACP and the national office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference want to block the plan because the site continues to idolize the Confederacy – and continues to symbolize the support for slavery during the Civil War.
According to the Atlanta Constitution, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association approved a plan to build King’s monument near the spot where the Ku Klux Klan once burned huge crosses, and just beyond the famous giant carving of three Confederate heroes: Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson. The plan also includes a permanent exhibit of Black soldiers in the Civil War.
“The proposal to include Dr. King [on Stone Mountain] is simply to confuse Black folk about the issues. It’s an attempt to gain support from Blacks to keep these racist and demeaning symbols,” John Evans, president of the DeKalb County branch of the NAACP, to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Civil Rights leaders met privately with the governor to express their opposition to the plan and to press for the removal of the Confederate heroes engraved on Stone Mountain.
Racial attitudes still permeate the area around Stone Mountain, Georgia. This summer, a high school principal came under fire for comments she made at the end of the school’s graduation ceremony that many in the audience found to be racially insensitive.
Nancy Gordeuk, the principal and founder of TNT Academy in Stone Mountain, Georgia, has apologized, but that hasn’t quieted the controversy.
At the graduation ceremony, Gordeuk accidentally skipped the valedictorian’s speech, and when the crowd started to leave the church where the ceremony was being held, she tried to regain their attention.
“Y’all are the rudest people I’ve ever seen not to listen to this speech,” she said.
Video of the event shows the crowd appearing to grow increasingly disgruntled, and as people continue to leave Gordeuk raises her voice.
“Look who’s leaving,” she says. “All the Black people.”
Gordeuk’s remarks angered the audience, many describing it as a racist outburst.
“She named only Black people,” said Brooklyn Jacobs, who attended the graduation ceremony. “She didn’t say, ‘Oh look at the Caucasians leaving, look at the Indians leaving,’ she said Blacks.”
This was May 2015 – not May 1960.
The racist symbolism and racial attitudes on Stone Mountain haven’t changed much over the years, so why should King’s image be erected next to three Confederate war heroes – and the KKK – all who believed in demeaning and enslaving African American people?
“There is absolutely no question that Stone Mountain, even in 2015, continues to be a rallying site for racists,” SCLC President Charles Steele said. “Seems like nothing has changed since the ’60s.”
There are plenty of wonderful and non-controversial sites where King can be honored with a statue. Stone Mountain doesn’t have to be on the list. Black people don’t want King honored there and neither do Confederate loyalists.
“The Civil War has never ended for Southern sympathizers. This just continues to reinforce white supremacy,” said Richard Rose, president of the Atlanta Branch of the NAACP in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Adding King to it is just adding insult to injury. King was a man renowned for peace and nonviolence and to dedicate something to him in a place with rogues, traitors and war-mongers is wrong.”
I couldn’t agree more.
What do you think?
(Photo: Public Domain)