In a brief year that’s already seen a number of historic firsts for Black people, the country’s racist Confederate legacy is now getting in on the act.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has named a Black person to be chairman of the board of directors that governs Stone Mountain Park, home to the world’s largest Confederate monument that also pays tribute to the Ku Klux Klan. The Rev. Abraham Mosley will be the first person who is not a white man to lead the Stone Mountain Memorial Association Board of Directors when he is sworn in.
Mosley was already a member of the board — one of two Black people — but was elevated by the governor amid a racial reckoning (not to mention the state earning an anti-Black label following a string of election-related controversies including new laws that have been described as racist in nature.)
Stone Mountain Park is in DeKalb County and features images of Confederate leaders—Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson—carved into the granite mountain that is advertised as a tourist attraction.
The Stone Mountain Action Coalition, which describes itself as “a movement dedicated to a more inclusive park centered on the principles of healing, transformation, and progress,” said in a tweet that 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.
But Mosley, a graduate of HBCU Fort Valley State University, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that people should temper any expectations they have of immediate change to Stone Mountain Park, which has been the home to a number of rallies organized by white supremacists, including one last summer attended by an all-Black militia to confront white nationalists.
“Certainly, there are mounting problems that have been brought before us. But we’ve got to handle them one at a time,” Mosley, a pastor at the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens, Georgia, since 1974, said. “We’ve got to be patient. I don’t want to be the man who prayed, ‘Lord, give me patience, but give it to me right now.’”
There were more than 2,000 Confederate monuments and statues in public places across the U.S., according to a report from the Associated Press.
Lecia Brooks, chief of staff of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the AP that Georgia was among states with Confederate monuments legally protected under the guise of recognizing American heritage.
“The truth of the matter is that most of these monuments and memorials don’t offer any historical context at all,” Brooks said. “It is just a way to venerate people who fought for the continuation of slavery.”