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Turning the page on Georgia’s Stone Mountain

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The state board that oversees Stone Mountain Park, the 3,200-acre park that glorifies the Confederacy and Antebellum South, has selected an entity — the only company to bid — to manage Georgia’s most visited attraction.

Why it matters: Stone Mountain has zero connection to the Civil War — no battles were fought there. The monadnock’s mountaintop was the site of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan, and activists, residents, and visitors have called for the massive tribute to Confederate generals and white-washing of history to be removed.

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  • As the managing entity, Thrive Attractions Management LLC would have no say over the site’’s Confederate imagery, including the world’s largest Confederate monument.

  • But CEO Michael Dombrowski, who has been the park’s manager for years, says his newly created firm will support a new museum that acknowledges Stone Mountain’s history and to make the park more welcoming. (The Stone Mountain Memorial Association board must still finalize the deal.)

Context: Herschend Family Entertainment, the site’s longtime private operator, is saying farewell to Stone Mountain by next summer — in part because of tension and protests related to the Confederate imagery.

  • In 1915, the same year that work began on the sculpture dubbed the “Mount Rushmore of the Confederacy,” a group of men hiked up the rock, burned a cross and announced the second coming of the KKK.

  • The 2015 killing of nine Black people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., sparked calls for the removal of Confederate imagery at the park, including the sculpture.

Yes, but: State law prohibits the removal of the sculpture, but activists including the Stone Mountain Action Coalition have called for state officials to stop maintaining it.

  • Others, including Stacey Abrams, have recommended the sculpture’s outright removal. Another person suggested adding Outkast to the sculpture alongside the Confederate generals.

What they’re saying: “I’ve always told our employees on a regular basis, for anything dark that’s ever happened here, we’re gonna bury it with a thousand tons of love,” Dombrowski told the AJC. “We can’t do anything about a rock. But we can do something about the living human beings and the community that’s in front of that rock.”

  • The Stone Mountain Action Coalition tells Axios it wants Thrive to support changing the name of streets and lakes named after Confederate generals and a Klan leader, advocate for the passage of state legislation allowing the park to stop maintaining the sculpture, and remove Confederate imagery from the laser show, among other measures.

What’s next: On Monday, the park’s board voted to request proposals to create the history museum, the AJC reported. This past May it agreed to move Confederate flags waving at the foot of the mountain to a less prominent location.

Thomas’ thought bubble: Stone Mountain Park is one of the most diverse places you can visit — an irony considering the failed movement it was meant to honor. Put its history in context and celebrate the people who have put the Confederacy in its rightful place.

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