Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Stone Mountain, Georgia’s geological marvel and racist mecca

By triji May 10, 2024
News

Stone Mountain State Park outside Atlanta is Georgia’s most popular and controversial tourist attraction. This location, which euphemistically celebrates the Confederate States of America, attracts families, white supremacists, and KKK fans every year.

Behind its friendly exterior of a dinosaur cage, mini golf course, and ice cream kiosks, many consider Stone Mountain Park as a haven of blatant bigotry that romanticizes and glorifies the Civil War.

Here, Confederate leaders are “heroes” who died for the South’s “freedom” and “values”—not rebels who defended slavery. The Confederate uprising was a self-defense against a Northern “aggression,” not a protest against Abraham Lincoln’s government.

Racist apologia

“If you read the explanatory signs scattered throughout the park, you will not find any mention of slavery,” complained Sally Stanhope of the Stone Mountain Action Coalition (SMAC), which opposes the state’s protected and funded glorification of the southern camp. The park promotes racism while claiming to honor the Confederacy.

Stone Mountain’s history fuels its bad reputation. The new KKK burnt crosses on the park’s granite hill one night in 1915 to herald its revival.

The world’s largest Confederate monument is carved on this hill. A massive stone sculpture depicting the southern troika. In bas-relief, President Jefferson Davis and his two most famous generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, represent righteousness, valor, and heroism.

The monument is 30 m tall and 60 tennis courts wide. The many families like posing with smiles in front of this etching, which many find insulting and which rallies the American far right.

Sally Stanhope recalls, “It’s a park owned by Georgia, funded by the entire population of Georgia and protected by Georgia law.” “The largest Confederate symbol in the world has no place there and must disappear or be stopped from receiving public funds. People walking here don’t have to confront the Confederacy or the state’s celebration of slavery.

A KKK-tied past

The largest Confederate memorial in the world is not atop Stone Mountain because the Civil War echoed there. No battles occurred here. No famous Civil War person was born nearby.

According to Claire Haley, historian at the Atlanta History Center, Helen Plane, a widow of a Confederate soldier and member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was the inspiration behind the engraving. “This lady seemed to admire the Ku Klux Klan: she pondered placing KKK figures with Confederate figures at first.

This monument, planned in the early 1910s and partly carved by the sculptor behind Mount Rushmore, was inaugurated in 1972, eight years after the Civil Rights Act. Marvin Griffin, an openly segregationist Georgia politician, inspired the project to finish after the Great Depression and civil rights movement stalled it.

In 1954, less than two months after the US Supreme Court ruling in favor of racial diversity in schools, governor candidate Marvin Griffin promised to complete the monument in the name of the “Southern way of life”—a polite way, according to Claire Haley, “to defend racial segregation”. He easily won his elections a few months later.

Since then, Stone Mountain has epitomized the Deep South’s opposition to civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned that “freedom could ring from Stone Mountain, Georgia.”

Supremacist haunt

Small far-right groups still congregate at Stone Mountain annually. The Sons of the Confederate Veterans, a male-only group of southern troops, throws a massive demonstration every year under the bas-relief.

Members gather at Stone Mountain to listen to “renowned” speakers like Pastor John Weaver, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “a pillar of a hateful neo-Confederate movement known for defending secession, slavery, and segregation in the South.”

“Thank God, park managers refused the KKK’s request to burn crosses on Stone Mountain in 2017,” stated SMAC’s Sally Stanhope. However, the park must stop allowing supremacist groups. We simply want Stone Mountain to be inclusive.

What to do with park Confederate imagery is debated. Like the Stone Mountain managers Le Devoir unsuccessfully approached, some defend the existing quo. Other Democrats, including Stacey Abrams, want the massive bas-relief demolished.

Far easier said than done. This size of rock would take years and dynamite to remove. Georgia law mandates “its preservation and protection until the end of time” for “the bravery and heroism of the people who suffered and died for their cause.”

State law requires the Stone Mountain gift store to show charms of the southern camp, which Amazon, Walmart, and eBay removed following a killing. 2015 Charleston church racial issue

Sally Stanhope reports that the Georgia Congress is debating a Democratic bill to erase references to the “Lost Cause,” the premise that the South fought not to preserve slavery but for noble and romantic ideas. This is significant because it shows that elected members in this Congress believe the Civil War war criminals who killed millions of Americans are not heroes. Even when our law says otherwise.

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By triji

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