Stone Mountain, Georgia: The flashpoint now at center of Confederate monument removals

The mountain, known for its massive Confederate memorial carving, was the location of the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915.

by Common Dreams staff

Sunday, July 5

Black Lives Matter protesters gather in front of the Confederate carving in Stone Mountain Park on June 16, 2020 in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The march is to protest confederate monuments and recent police shootings. Stone Mountain Park features a Confederate Memorial carving depicting Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, President Jefferson Davis. (Photo by Jessica McGowan)
Black Lives Matter protesters gather in front of the Confederate carving in Stone Mountain Park on June 16, 2020 in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The march is to protest confederate monuments and recent police shootings. Stone Mountain Park features a Confederate Memorial carving depicting Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, President Jefferson Davis. (Photo by Jessica McGowan)

The planet’s largest Confederate monument—Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta, Georgia—is the new national flashpoint in the growing campaign to rid public spaces of memorials to racist historical figures.

On Saturday, a predominantly Black group of heavily armed protesters marched through the park, calling for removal of the giant Confederate rock carving at the site considered a monument to racism. The group, known as the Not F***ing Around Coalition (NFAC) was comprised of several hundred people, all dressed in black.

Although African Americans appeared to account for the vast majority of the marchers, protesters of various races, men and women alike, were among the group.

Of all the Confederate monuments under fire, the 1,700-foot high outcropping of granite with carvings of Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Jefferson Davis is—by far—the largest.

Covering more than 17,000 square feet of mountain and 40 feet deep in the crannies, the carving—at nine-stories high—is the largest flat relief sculpture in the world. Planning of the monument began only in 1914. Funding for the project came primarily from the Ku Klux Klan, which regularly met on the mountain to burn crosses and the project’s first directors and promoters were KKK members. Their original plan was to depict General Robert E. Lee leading Confederate soldiers and Klan members up the mountain.

The park officially opened to the public on April 14, 1965 — the hundredth anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

After the memorial was complete, “a ‘neo-Confederate theme park’ emerged around the site, including a plantation house, a “Gone With the Wind” museum, according to a report from the Atlanta History Center, The New York Times reported.

Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and the Democratic nominee for governor in 2018, declared during her unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign that the granite carving is “a blight on our state” and called for its removal. “We must never celebrate those who defended slavery and tried to destroy the union,” Abrams said.

Removing the monument would take a lot of dynamite and require a change in state law. The Georgia code says the Confederate memorial should be “preserved and protected for all time as a tribute to the bravery and heroism of the citizens of this state who suffered and died in their cause.”

Stone Mountain Ku Klux Klan rally. Supporters of the Ku Klux Klan march May 4, 1989, Stone Mountain, Georgia (Paul Harris/Getty Images)
Stone Mountain Ku Klux Klan rally. Supporters of the Ku Klux Klan march May 4, 1989, Stone Mountain, Georgia (Paul Harris/Getty Images)
The Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain Park, depicting three Confederate traitors of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson on July 18, 2015 in Stone Mountain, Georgia. (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
The Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain Park, depicting three Confederate traitors of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson on July 18, 2015 in Stone Mountain, Georgia. (Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 6/18/1940-Atlanta, GA: These women were participants in the show put on by the Ku Klux Klan at the recent mass initiation ceremony and cross-burning on Stone Mountain (near Atlanta). One woman brought her small daughter along. The child is dressed in miniature Klan regalia. Only 125 new members turned up for initiation instead of the 1,000 expected by grand Dragon Samuel Green.
(Original Caption) 6/18/1940-Atlanta, GA: These women were participants in the show put on by the Ku Klux Klan at the recent mass initiation ceremony and cross-burning on Stone Mountain (near Atlanta). One woman brought her small daughter along. The child is dressed in miniature Klan regalia. Only 125 new members turned up for initiation instead of the 1,000 expected by grand Dragon Samuel Green.
1994: A view of Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta will host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and Stone Mountain will be the site for several events during the Olympics. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Bilow/Allsport
1994: A view of Stone Mountain in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta will host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and Stone Mountain will be the site for several events during the Olympics. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Bilow/Allsport

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