It has been called the “Confederate Mount Rushmore” — a tribute etched into Georgia’s Stone Mountain depicting Confederate war heroes Robert E. Lee, Thomas Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis. The NAACP has demanded its removal. A local artist has suggested adding Georgia rap duo Outkast to the carving.
Now state authorities have announced plans to use the space to also honor the nation’s most beloved civil rights leader, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The monument to the martyr would stand amid America’s pro-slavery heroes, on a storied spot that once served as a gathering place for the Ku Klux Klan, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. It would feature a tower that would include a likeness of the Liberty Bell — a symbol of the country’s independence — along with a line taken from King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech: “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.”
The “freedom bell” will periodically ring from the mountaintop.
“The new monument would broaden the story told by the park,” said Bill Stephens, chief executive officer for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association.
An exhibit to celebrate African-American Civil War soldiers was also included in the plans, which are likely to be rolled out “sometime before the holiday season,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“It is our desire to place the monument there,” Stephens told The Post, “but it has not been formally approved yet.”
Stephens said the initial concept for a freedom bell evolved from a conversation a couple of years ago among the state’s civil rights leaders while celebrating King’s 50th anniversary.
Over the summer, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jim Galloway called for such recognition in an op-ed following the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine black parishioners were killed. The tragedy ignited a national backlash against Confederate flags and icons.
Galloway suggested an idea: An addition to Stone Mountain, to show another side of history.
“Stone Mountain may be required to serve as a Confederate memorial, which makes the subtraction of history difficult,” he wrote in July. “But state law doesn’t rule out the addition of history. To respect the dead is well and good. It is not always wise to give them the last word.
“Perhaps a few words, carved in granite, once spoken by a fellow who had a dream of freedom ringing from the top of Stone Mountain.”
An Atlanta City Council resolution also called on Stone Mountain to consider adding others to the monument, including King.
It apparently caught the governor’s attention.
“The governing body of Stone Mountain and the private company here, they went far beyond that and they decided there ought to be a monument,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said, according to WSB-TV.
The idea has drawn mixed reactions from people across the state.
Warner Robins resident Kaycie Cruz, 22, said she thinks it’s a good call.
“I think it would add another special person to the monument and, maybe, it will attract more tourists,” she told the Journal-Constitution. “I can’t believe people are making such a big deal about [the Confederate carving].”
Tim Pilgrim, head of the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called it an affront to the Confederate legacy.
“This is an insult to us,” he told the Journal-Constitution. “This is like the government going down to Auburn Avenue and putting a monument of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on top of the King monument. How would supporters of Martin Luther King feel about that?”
Stephens said officials are still in the initial planning stages, working on the funding and design.
The monument and exhibit likely would be funded by revenue from Stone Mountain Park, according to the Journal-Constitution.
Because King’s famous speech is copyrighted, officials are now working to get permission from his family to use his remarks.
“Discussions have taken place with the King family and are taking place now,” Stephens told the newspaper. “Their initial reaction is very favorable. But we haven’t completed those discussions yet.”
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who worked with King, said he’s looking forward to it.
“It is amazing,” he told the Journal-Constitution. “I think it is a good idea, introducing a new era to the Deep South. They are placing Martin Luther King in a place where he ought to be. Where I never dreamed he would be. This is striking.”
All other monuments would remain in the park.
This story has been updated.