Deal defends Stone Mountain Memorial Sculpture

| July 28, 2015


Gov. Nathan Deal has some harsh words for Atlanta lawmakers who want to give Stone Mountain’s famed Confederate faces a mega-makeover.

The Republican urged them to aim their fire elsewhere — namely the effort to revive struggling schools that have so far dominated his second term in office.

“It’s not a debate that is useful,” he said when asked about the Atlanta City Council resolution passed last week that urges Deal to appoint a committee to study changes to the state-owned monolith. “I don’t think it provides us with any basis for going forward.”

The debate over the stony faces of the three Confederate leaders at Stone Mountain has roared back to life in the wake of South Carolina’s decision to remove the Rebel emblem from the statehouse grounds after a white supremacist gunned down nine black worshippers.

In other quarters, Democrats are urging the state to quit celebrating Confederate Memorial Day and Confederate Heritage Month. And the state has stopped selling license plates with the Rebel battle emblem after Deal announced a “redesign” of the tags.

But Stone Mountain’s images, etched as deeply in Georgia law as the mountain’s granite face, are particularly galling to black leaders and other critics who view them as symbols of hate, preserved in perpetuity by the state. Calls for boycotts of the park have been met by decisions by the attraction’s leaders to keep flying Confederate battle flags on the monument’s grounds.

Deal, in definitive language, sent the message that he will support no legislative changes to the monument. Critics, he said, should instead focus on the plight of failing schools, one of his signature priorities. Said Deal:

“I would ask those who think this is such a big issue, if they would exert the same amount of influence and time and effort to try to make sure that the children in our school systems in this state who are in failing schools get a good education, it will erase any of the things that they think the memorials symbolize. I would hope they see that in the same light in which I do.”

Atlanta Journal Constitution

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