August 18, 2017

Michael Thurmond: Stone Mountain Needs Context


Photo Credit: Jim Bowen

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond weighed in on the Stone Mountain controversy in an interview the AJC published today.

He wouldn't endorse Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams' recent call to sandblast Confederate figures Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson off the mountain, but he did call for additional context regarding the "Lost Cause" mythology surrounding the 1915 carving, as well as black representation on the board that runs the park.

“It was a way to sanitize history. It created a notion that slavery wasn’t what was fought over,” Thurmond said. “If you look at the narrative carved in stone, it’s very clear the celebration is about a narrative about a mythological view of the Civil War.”

And yet: It’s now one of the state’s top tourism attractions, one of the most vibrant places in metro Atlanta, a place for picnickers and weekend warriors and families to gather. So on his first day as DeKalb’s top official, he set out to reclaim that brand for his county.

“The narrative that birthed the carving of Stone Mountain is not the narrative that will be promoted by this county,” he said. “Stone Mountain is a place where people of all races, creeds and colors come every day.”

Thurmond is an Athens native who represented the city in the state legislature in the 1980s and wrote a book about Athens' black history, A Story Untold.