Georgia park honoring confederacy gets first Black chair

ATLANTA (AP) — The board overseeing an Atlanta area park that has centuries-old ties to the Ku Klux Klan and contains the largest Confederate monument ever crafted will be headed for the first time by an African American.

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday announced that he had appointed the Rev. Abraham Mosley to serve as chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the state authority responsible for overseeing Stone Mountain Park about 15 miles (24 kilometers) northeast of Atlanta. The park is a popular hiking and tourist site but is replete with Confederate imagery.

Mosley, pastor of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia, was previously a member of the association’s board. His elevation to chairman comes as the park’s Confederate symbols face renewed opposition, with some calling on park leaders to stop maintaining its signature feature — a colossal sculpture of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson that is carved into the mountain’s northern face.

Association CEO Bill Stephens told WSB-TV the board will hear ideas at a meeting on Monday about how to change the park in ways he thinks will balance its historical record.

Mosley urged patience.

“Certainly, there are mounting problems that have been brought before us. But we’ve got to handle them one at a time,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Kemp said in a statement that he was confident Mosley would “continue to rely on his experience in bringing people together” as chairman of the association.

The Stone Mountain Action Coalition, an advocacy group, last year proposed that the association remove Confederate flags at the base of the mountain, change the names of streets and other park features with Confederate affiliations and refocus the park on themes such as racial reconciliation and justice. Meymoona Freeman, a leader of the group, said it wanted to see the carving of Lee, Davis and Jackson transformed into a natural space. The sculpture has special protection enshrined in Georgia law, which calls on the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to protect the site as a “Confederate Memorial and public recreation area,” according to the association’s website.

The Stone Mountain Action Coalition said in a statement it was “encouraged” by Mosley’s appointment.

“It is our hope that the appointment of Reverend Mosley to this position of leadership is the first of many changes at this public park that will result in the immediate and complete removal of symbols, monuments, flags, street, place and building names, events and activities that honor and celebrate the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan,” the Stone Mountain Action Coalition said in a statement.

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