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Stone Mountain Petition Stokes Controversy; Georgia Man Wants Confederate Monument Remade

05/01/2013 05:06 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2013

It might be a well-known symbol of the state of Georgia, but a new online petition started by an Atlanta man seeks to have the Confederate Memorial Carving at Stone Mountain changed.

McCartney Forde, who started the Change.org petition, wants to remodel the monument on the north face of Stone Mountain because he thinks it "perpetuates the perception of Georgia as an icon of racism, slavery and oppression."

"It's almost like a black eye or an embarrassing smudge on our culture," Forde told NBC affiliate WXIA on Monday.

The Confederate Memorial Carving, which features likenesses of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, is the "largest high relief sculpture in the world" and a popular tourist attraction.

Although the memorial was conceived by groups wishing to preserve Confederate history, Stone Mountain Park is owned by the state and is managed by Stone Mountain Memorial Association, a Georgia state authority.

In his petition, which is addressed to various elected officials and the Georgia state House and Senate, Forde proposes replacing the carving with "a monument that honors all the Georgia veterans who were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner in World War I, World War II, The Korean War, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, The war in Iraq, and Operation Enduring Freedom."

Critics of the petition called Forde's proposal an attempt at revisionist history.

“When I got over laughing about it, I got a little mad,” Jack Bridwell, a retired educator whose ancestor fought in the Confederate army, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Calvin Johnson Jr., a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the oldest hereditary organization for male descendents of Confederate soldiers, told WXIA that where history is concerned, the good must be taken with the bad.

"We should not erase history," Johnson told the station.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had fewer than 200 signatures.

While some residents revere the memorial as a commemoration of Southern heritage, Stone Mountain is perhaps most historically significant as the birthplace of the modern-day Ku Klux Klan. After the group was founded at a rally there in 1915, the Klan hosted "an annual Labor Day cross-burning rite at the base of the mountain" that would continue for 50 years, the New York Times reported in 2000.

According to the newspaper, the mountain became so synonymous with racism and intolerance that Martin Luther King Jr. invoked it in his "I Have A Dream" speech: "Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia."

This isn't the first time symbols of the Confederacy have been challenged in Georgia. From 1956 to 2001, Georgia's state flag prominently featured a Confederate battle cross. Although a new flag with a diminished cross was introduced in 2001, it wasn't until 2003 that the state's newest, cross-free flag was introduced.

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