Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams is trying to make history by becoming the first African American, and the first woman, elected governor of Georgia. She has been running neck and neck with Republican Brian Kemp, the Georgia secretary of state. Her campaign hit a momentary kerfuffle when the New York Times reported on social media posts regarding her participation in the burning of Georgia’s state flag while a college student in 1992. Abrams unapologetically stood by her youthful act of constitutionally protected free speech, which occurred at a time when the whole state was debating what to do with a banner that incorporated the Confederate battle flag, having been modified to include that hateful symbol by the state’s segregationist officials in 1956. Abrams was among those who rightly believed such a banner represented, as she understatedly put it in a Tuesday night candidates’ debate, “racial divisiveness.”

Abrams has also called for the removal of the gigantic bas-relief memorial to Confederate generals carved into the side of Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, which also happens to be the place where the modern version of the Ku Klux Klan got started in 1915. Good for her on that, too.

The problem is that it will be logistically and politically extremely difficult to manage that, just as it would be completely to detox the updated Georgia flag that replaced the battle-flag tainted one in 2003. You see, the current flag, adopted in a state referendum, derives from the Confederacy’s first national flag — the “Stars and Bars” — in use at the outset of the war.

Georgia still has not completely overcome the Confederate tilt of its public symbols that began in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. In 1867, pro-Union Georgians, black and white, proposed the construction of a monument to the assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, to be constructed at an appropriate place in Atlanta. They intended it, in the words of a citizens association organized to promote the monument, as “imperishable proof of our reconciliation.”

Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp debated health care and voting rights at Georgia's gubernatorial debate on Oct. 23. (Reuters)

Leading white newspapers and politicians in Atlanta furiously attacked the proposal as an inappropriate honor to the president who sent “a merciless horde” to burn the city. It would insult the Confederate dead, they complained. The plan fizzled when the City Council, dominated by ex-Confederate whites, conditioned the construction of an Atlanta Lincoln monument on its sponsors’ ability to raise $750,000 to pay for it, an impossibility in the economically ravaged South.

Instead, over the years, Atlanta and the surrounding counties accumulated a variety of monuments and memorials to the Confederacy and the Confederate dead, while the state, in 1927, donated a statue of Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens, a Georgian, to stand in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

On the other hand, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta stands as a powerful, and, among tourists, popular monument to that great son of Georgia.

The dream of a Lincoln memorial in Atlanta remains unfulfilled to this day. There is no statue or other marker honoring the 16th president anywhere in the city’s public spaces. Surely whoever wins the gubernatorial election in November ought to give some thought to remedying that. Nothing would have to be revised, revamped or torn down. And surely it is not too late, even amid the worst political polarization since Reconstruction, to construct the “imperishable proof of our reconciliation” Atlantans of good will wanted, but were denied, more than 150 years ago. Maybe they could put it on top of Stone Mountain.

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