Georgia Park with the large Accomplice carving authorized modifications

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) – The agency that oversaw a mountain park near Atlanta with a giant carving by Confederate leaders voted Monday to remove Confederate flags from a busy walking trail and create a museum exhibit confirming the location’s connection to the Ku Klux Klan.

The moves were part of an effort by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association to address criticisms of the park’s Confederate heritage and shore up its finances. The chairman of the board of the association promised further changes.

“We just took our first step today to where we need to be,” said Rev. Abraham Mosley at a press conference following the vote. Mosley, named by Governor Brian Kemp last month, is the first African-American chairman of the board.

The board didn’t address the carving at Monday’s meeting, but Mosley wasn’t ruling out future changes. Critics have asked the plaque to remove the colossal sculpture of General Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from the north face of the mountain. It was completed in 1972 and has a diameter of 58 meters and a height of 27 meters. It is the largest Confederate monument ever built and has special protection enshrined in Georgian law.

The changes, approved on Monday, come amid a national reckoning of the race that destroyed dozens of Confederate monuments last year. Many of the now controversial Confederate monuments were erected by groups of women and veterans in the early 20th century. Some honorary generals or soldiers; others bear inscriptions that critics say falsely gloss over slavery as the cause of civil war or portray the Confederate cause as noble.

Work on the Steinberg sculpture subsided until the state bought the mountain and the surrounding land for a public park in 1958. Completion of the monument became a renewed urgency amid resistance from Georgia and other southern states to the civil rights movement and efforts to end segregation.

Today, the park 25 kilometers northeast of downtown Atlanta markets itself as a family theme park rather than a Confederation memorial. It attracts a large number of tourists and other visitors interested in hiking to the top of the mountain or hiking across the grounds. Even so, it is full of Confederate pictures.

Former DeKalb County’s NAACP President John Evans told the Stone Mountain Board before the vote that they needed to do more.

“We have to dismantle the flags. We have to change all street names and do what we announced: remove the confederation from Stone Mountain Park, ”he said.

A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, speaking on Monday, said maintaining the Stone Mountain carving was not racist, but a way to honor the soldiers who fought for the Confederation. Eric Cleveland said he didn’t have much of a problem with the board-approved changes and called them a “compromise,” but said they would encourage critics.

“These people won’t stop until our history is completely erased,” he said.

The board-approved museum exhibit will tell the history of carving, including its roots in efforts to maintain segregation, said Bill Stephens, CEO of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. It will also reflect the role of location in the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. The group celebrated their comeback with a cross that burned on the mountain on Thanksgiving Night 1915.

The board also voted to change the park’s logo, which currently features the Confederate carving, and seek federal recognition of a bridge built by a prominent African American.