ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta)– Controversy is stirring in Georgia after plans were announced to build a Martin Luther King Jr. tribute at the same site as a Confederate memorial.
Plans are being made to build the King tribute in the same spot where four million people a year come to tour the nation’s biggest shrine to the Confederacy, as reported by CBS News.
The Stone Mountain Park memorial, outside Atlanta, was a home turf for Ku Klux Klan members when its construction started over a century ago. Today, the county comprises of mostly black residents, according to CBS News.
The memorial is the most visited attraction in Georgia and often referred to as the “Confederate Mount Rushmore.” Three war heroes of the Old South, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis, stand 90 feet tall etched into granite.
“This memorial honors the 900,000 Confederate soldiers that went off to fight to protect their families, their homes and country,” Timothy Pilgrim of the Georgia’s Sons of Confederate Veterans told CBS News.
Georgia is now planning to put a MLK tribute on top of Stone Mountain, specifically a freedom bell of racial reconciliation.
“Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia,” King said in his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
As soon as plans were made public, Georgia residents began opposing the monument being built at the same site.
“To put a monument on top of a existing monument is unlawful, disrespectful and inappropriate,” Pilgrim said.
But the Confederate crowd isn’t the only one speaking out against the plans, the NAACP and Charles Steele, Jr. also voiced their concerns.
“It’s something that was a dark past of our history, and it needs to be buried in history,” Steele, leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference civil rights group, told CBS News. “We want to eradicate it. We want to blast it. We want to paint over it. Whatever it takes, that’s what we want to do,” Steele said.
However, some surviving members of King’s circle are in favor of installing the bell.
“The mountain belonged to the people of this state and the people of this nation. Why not?” Georgia Congressman John Lewis said.
The proposal for the freedom bell needs one more vote by the authority board and approval by the governor before plans go forward. Confederate groups who oppose the plan are reportedly rallying next month.