MLK, Jr. At Stone Mountain

One Player's Opinion: Stone Mountain's Confederate Figures Should Be Destroyed To Make Way For MLK 'Freedom Bell' Tribute

Should Confederate Figures Be Destroyed For MLK 'Freedom Bell' Tribute?

Perhaps we should not be surprised that MLK, Jr. is still making headlines this week, some 45 years after his violent and untimely death, more than 30 years after the day of his birth became a national holiday. Yes, in the wake of last night’s #DemDebate, where the subjects of diversity, parity in pay for women, America’s use of military power abroad and, most urgently, #BlackLivesMatter were all on the table — one looming figure stands over it all.

Behind and beyond the hype and hyperbole of Donald J. Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the voice Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seems to echo from the past to remind us all that there is still work to be done. A new piece from the Associated Press finds the summit of Stone Mountain the site of a new monument to the “I Have a Dream” martyr is slated to be erected–as well as a new debate about the meaning of his legacy.

Specifically, an elevated tower — featuring a replica of the Liberty Bell — would be added to the north face of Stone Mountain. For those who fell asleep during history and social studies class, Stone Mountain is the largest bas-relief in the world. Owned by the Venable Brothers, Stone Mountain was the site of the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915. The north face of Stone Mountain features a carving depicting three Confederate figures during the Civil War: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. With the State of Georgia purchasing the land in 1958, one has to wonder if it makes sense to place the Civil Rights legend next to those who would see him only as chattel.

Bill Stephens, the chief executive officer of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, believes that including MLK is “a great addition to the historical offerings” presented at Stone Mountain. But what does that mean? In King’s 1963 speech, he yearns for us as human beings to “let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia,” but will anyone understand the context if they’re just seeing a “freedom bell” upon a mountaintop?

Could the message be misconstrued? Or co-opted by those who are attempting to sanitize the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Legally speaking, of course, the privately-operated park can do anything it desires. From creating a permanent exhibit on African American soldiers in the Civil War to making a Dolly Parton tribute — Silver Dollar City-Stone Mountain Park can literally and figuratively make anything a reality.

The hotly contested debate about the Confederacy’s place in this Unionized and supposedly united nation has boiled over since the June 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Below the Mason-Dixon line, the “stars and bars” fly willfully even though they have been taken out of stores like Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie. Think about this: King made his “Stone Mountain” included speech five years after Klan rallies were banned at the summit. Does anyone really believe that a “Freedom Bell” will signify the South’s acceptance of racial equality?

The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding Hell No.

Critics have rightly argued that the enormous Confederate carving, which stands larger than a football field, should be sand-blasted into oblivion. Why do we give losers so much shine anyway? Robert E. Lee and his cohorts didn’t defeat the Union, so in an effort to change the beating drum of racism that resounds in places like Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana — a change should be made.

Nearly one in 10 Union soldiers were African-American, versus a handful who fought for the South by the end of the war. If they are seriously going to plan on unveiling a tribute to the testimony of the late, great Dr. King then those in charge of the monument should strike a blow against racism by destroying the monuments to those who fought to keep people in color in chains and under oppression.

What do y’all think, Okayplayers? Speak your piece in the comments section below.

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