By Nigel Boys
A permanent museum exhibit to recognize African-American soldiers contributions on both sides of the American Civil War will be erected on Stone Mountain, along with a tower in honor of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., according to reports.
The Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which is in charge of maintaining the mountain and surrounding Stone Mountain Park announced that a replica of the Liberty Bell would be placed in King’s honor. The bell will feature the words “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia,” which is taken from a line in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, according to CNN.
The “King Monument Bell” will “facilitate more complete telling of the mountain’s history and an expansion of the park’s educational offerings,” a statement from the Stone Mountain Memorial Association reads in part. It will be shown proudly on the site which remains a home for Confederate tributes and was famous for KKK cross-burnings years ago.
When the state of Georgia purchased the mountain in 1958 from a private owner, Ku Klux Klan rallies, which had been held around the mountain, were banned. The 1915 revival of the Klan reportedly sparked the film “The Birth of a Nation” and the Leo Frank case.
After the June massacre of nine African-American members of the historically black Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, South Carolina, the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Jim Galloway pushed for change in Stone Mountain’s representation.
Galloway proposed that Stone Mountain be made to represent more Southern history stating that it has traditionally shown “a three-dimensional history lesson (that) has pushed a one-sided view of America’s bloodiest conflict.”
In July, John Bankhead, spokesman for the Stone Mountain Memorial Association said, Stone Mountain Park “is set up by Georgia law as a museum for the Confederacy.”
However, two years ago, during the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, some local residents walked to the top of the mountain and rang a bell in his honor.
It appears that not everyone is pleased with the proposed King Liberty Bell on Stone Mountain due to a rally celebrating the Confederate flag in August that was held at the site, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
The tower would be “in contradistinction to the purpose for which the park exists and would make it a memorial to something different,” reads a statement from the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
WSB TV reports that following the AME church massacre and the revelation that the gunman, Dylann Roof, was a supporter of the Confederate battle flag, the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP called for the removal of all Confederate symbols from the park in July.
“It is one of the best-known speeches in U.S. history,” said Bill Stephens, the chief executive officer of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, about MLK’s speech. “We think it’s a great addition to the historical offerings we have here,” he told Galloway.
Although the association has yet to take any formal action on the proposal, it has the backing of Nathan Deal, the Governor of Georgia.
Stating that the freedom bell will shortly sound from the mountaintop, Stephens added that because King’s speech is copyrighted and controlled by his children, there are still many details to work out. As to how often the bell will sound or when it will begin, those details have still to be determined.
The mammoth engraving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, among other outdoor attractions of the park, is the largest high-relief sculpture in the world, according to Stone Mountain Park.com.