A tower in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is planned for the summit of Georgia’s Stone Mountain, just yards away from where Ku Klux Klansmen once burned giant crosses.
Gov. Nathan Deal has green-lighted the monument, which will feature a replica of the Liberty Bell and give literal representation to a line from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The “freedom bell” will also sound from the mountaintop, but how often has yet to be determined.
“It is one of the best-known speeches in U.S. history,” Bill Stephens, the chief executive officer of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, told the Journal-Constitution. “We think it’s a great addition to the historical offerings we have here.”
Because King’s 1963 speech is copyrighted, permission from his heirs will be required.
“Discussions have taken place with the King family and are taking place now,” Mr. Stephens said. “Their initial reaction is very favorable. But we haven’t completed those discussions yet.”
A permanent exhibit on black soldiers in the Civil War is also planned for the park. Both projects are in response to renewed debate over Confederate displays on government-owned land, spurred by the mass shooting of nine black congregants by a white supremacist at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, the Journal-Constitution reported.
The NAACP’s Atlanta chapter demanded in July that the images of Civil War luminaries Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson be sandblasted off the side of Stone Mountain. The request was swiftly denied.
“We’re into additions and not subtractions,” Mr. Stephens told the paper.
The planned MLK tribute has gotten mixed reactions by leaders in the community, according to a separate report by the Journal-Constitution.
Tim Pilgrim, head of the Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the plan is an insult.
“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,” he told the paper. How would supporters of Martin Luther King feel about that?”
Dan Coleman, spokesman for the Georgia Sons of the Confederate Veterans, added: “Martin Luther King didn’t have anything to do with the Confederacy. … I don’t know anybody who says King should be on a Confederate memorial.”
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who worked with King, said he was moved by the idea.
“It is amazing,” he told the paper. “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.”