STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (AP) — The board of directors of a mountain park near Atlanta
with a giant carving of Confederate leaders voted Monday to remove Confederate flags from a busy walking trail and create a museum exhibit honoring the site's connection to the Ku Klux Klan
The changes were part of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association
's effort to address criticism of the park's Confederate legacy while also strengthening its finances, and the chairman of the association's board promised more changes in the future.
“We’ve just taken our first step today to where we need to go,” Rev. Abraham Mosley, the board’s first African American chairman, said at a news
conference following the vote. Mosley was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp
The board did not address the carving at Monday's meeting, but Mosley did not rule out future changes. Critics have urged the board to remove the colossal sculpture of Gen. Robert E. Lee
, Confederate President Jefferson Davis
, and Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson
from the mountain's northern face, which was completed in 1972 and measures 190 feet (58 meters) across and 90 feet (27 meters) tall.
The changes approved Monday come amid a national reckoning on race that saw the removal of dozens of Confederate monuments last year. Many of the Confederate monuments that are now controversial were erected in the early 1900s by groups made up of women and veterans
. Some honor generals or soldiers; others bear
inscriptions that critics say wrongly gloss over slavery
as a cause of the Civil War or po
on the Stone Mountain sculpture stalled until the state purchased the mountain and surrounding land for a public park in 1958, when Georgia
and other Southern states resisted the civil rights
movement and efforts to end segregation
Today, the park 15 miles (25 kilometers) northeast of downtown Atlanta markets itself as a family theme park rather than a Confederate monument, attracting large numbers of tourists and other visitors interested in hiking
to the top of the mountain or walking the grounds, but it still contains Confederate imagery.
Before the vote, former DeKalb County NAACP
President John Evans told the Stone Mountain board that more needed to be done.
“We need to take down the flags, change all of the street names, and do what we promised: remove the Confederacy from Stone Mountain Park
,” he said.
A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who spoke at Monday's meeting said that keeping the carving at Stone Mountain is not racist
, but rather a way to honor the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. Eric Cleveland said he did not have a big problem with the changes approved by the board, calling them a "compromise," but he said they would embolden critics.
will not stop until our history has been completely erased,” he said.
According to Bill Stephens, CEO of Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the museum exhibit approved by the board will relate the history of the carving, including its roots in efforts to maintain segregation, as well as the site's role in the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, which celebrated its rebirth with a cross burning atop the mountain on Thanksgiving night 1915.
The board also agreed to change the park's logo, which currently depicts a Confederate soldier, and to seek federal recognition for a bridge
built by a prominent African American.