Stone Mountain Carving: Another Call to Remove It by Candidate for Governor
Stacey Abrams is a candidate who wants to be elected as the next governor of Georgia — and she is also the latest person who is calling on the removal of the famous carving which adorns the face of Stone Mountain, which is a popular attraction in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
Stone Mountain Carving: Another Call to Remove It by Candidate for Governor
“It is 2017, and now is the time for us to have a conversation about removing the last vestiges of that type of hatred and that type of vitriol toward minority communities in Georgia,” Abrams — who is currently the House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly and State Representative for the 89th House District — said to Richard Elliot, who is a reporter for WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta.
Abrams is the latest public figure to advocate for the removal of the carving, as the president of the Atlanta branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — more popularly known as the NAACP, which is a civil rights group representing black people — in 2015 believed that what is considered to be the largest high relief sculpture in the world represents three men who are considered “symbols of the cause of white supremacy” and enacted “laws that institutionalized economic oppression and denied educational opportunities, equal treatment under the law and voting rights to the descendants of the stolen Africans”, according to this article which I wrote back on Wednesday, July 15, 2015.
A statement attributed to Jimmy Carter — a former president of the United States — summarized his feelings: “there should be a distinction between the battle flag and tributes to Confederate figures, such as the large carving at Stone Mountain Park or statues in his home county in Georgia.”
What he called the “battle flag” refers to the Confederate flag, which is seen by many people as a symbol of hate; while others whose families have been located in the southern United States for generations consider it a symbol of heritage. Many people have joined the movement in recent years to remove the Confederate flag from public buildings and monuments — a movement which gained a significant amount of momentum as a result of the killing of nine innocent people by suspect Dylann Roof in a house of worship in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, June 17, 2015…
…as well as the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville “when James Fields, Jr. of Ohio allegedly plowed his car into the back of another car, sending it into the rear of a van and a crowd of pedestrians at the intersection of Fourth and Water streets” following a rally on Saturday, August 12, 2017 based on plans by the city to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, according to this article from CBS News 19 in Charlottesville. 19 other people were injured as a result of the incident; and two of the injured people have since filed a lawsuit.
Should the Carving Be Removed From Stone Mountain?
“The Stone Mountain Park should be altered to explain the full story: The Confederacy fought to protect States’ Rights……SPECIFICALLY the right of their white citizens to OWN human beings, rape their female “property” with impunity, and sell the products of their property (the children of slaves) as easily as they sold cotton”, Atif — who is a reader of The Gate — argued as a comment in response to the aforementioned article. “We should not alter, change, or forget history. The Confederacy and slavery are a SHAMEFUL period of our history, during which the Confederates’ desire to OWN human beings was stronger than their LOYALTY to the Unites States.”
Yet — in an unscientific and informal poll which I conducted as part of that article at The Gate — 92.86 percent of participants voted to keep the carving on Stone Mountain and leave it alone. “Ridiculous idea to remove this”, opined Gene, who is another reader of The Gate.
“After the war, Robert E. Lee told people to fold that flag and put it away”, Vicente — who is yet another reader of The Gate — posted in this comment. “A lot of SORE LOSERS however could never let it go, and referred to it as the War of Northern Agression and whitewashed the history, preferring to forget it was plainly all about slavery.”
About Stone Mountain
The three men depicted on the carving — Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy; Robert E. Lee, a general of the Confederate army; and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, also a general of the Confederate army — are considered Confederate heroes of the Civil War of the United States, which occurred greater than 150 years ago. Slavery was abolished after the deadliest war in the history of the United States ended by official declaration on Tuesday, May 9, 1865; and the Confederacy was dissolved shortly thereafter.
Stone Mountain is one of the more popular tourist attractions in the Atlanta metropolitan area which local people also enjoy. The mountain is 825 feet tall and covers 583 acres; while the top of the mountain is 1,683 feet above sea level. The entire carved surface — known as the Confederate Memorial Carving — measures three acres, which is larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore. The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground; measures 90 by 190 feet; and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain.
Originally intended to be completed in 1928, it took approximately 60 years for the carving to progress from concept to its final completion in 1972.
An ever-popular laser show using the carving as a backdrop has become a beloved tradition in the Atlanta area for both visitors and residents alike — of numerous races, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, genders and ages. Although I have not attended recently, I have enjoyed a picnic while relaxing on a blanket on the great lawn to that laser show — which is set to music — more than once; and it is included in the parking fee of $15.00, which is good all day long.
It is important to note that Stone Mountain Park has been operated by a private entity for greater than 15 years — before that, it was under the operation of the state of Georgia — but because the park celebrates the heritage of the Confederacy, it cannot remove symbols such as the Confederate flag and the carving without approval from the state of Georgia.
Regardless, I believe that the carving is a work of art which depicts an important era in the history of the United States — good or bad — and it would be a mistake to remove or erase it.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is a famous quote attributed to George Santayana; but it has been misquoted over the years as “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”
Should the carving be permanently removed from the face of Stone Mountain?
I say no.
My roots are not in the southern United States, so I am far from qualified to enter the debate of whether or not the Confederate flag represents hate versus heritage — but I do not believe that erasing history is the answer.
Concentration camps were certainly institutions of hate and symbols — examples of some of the blatantly worst of human behavior in recorded history where millions of people were killed simply because of reasons of fallacy and ignorance: they believed in something specific or were not perfect in terms of their appearance. Should concentration camps such as Dachau — of which I posted my thoughts and photographs in this article and this article — be razed? Let the bulldozers flatten Auschwitz and forget about it — as well as stories such as the girl whose mother “went up in smoke”?
“Never again” and “never forget” are two phrases uttered by those who suffered at the hands of those who perpetuated the Holocaust greater than 70 years ago; and I would believe that similar sentiments would be expressed by those whose ancestors were forced out of Africa and sold as slaves — a major issue which led to the aforementioned Civil War in which as many as 850,000 people died.
“I’ve visited Stone Mountain and watched the laser light show and was appalled that the show, and the whole park, GLORIFY the Confederacy”, Atif wrote. “Because of this the analogy to concentration camps is flawed. The currently standing remains of the camps do not CELEBRATE the Nazi’s or glorify Hitler.”
Perhaps Atif is correct about that; and I would not be opposed to changing the context surrounding what the carving represents — but I am against removing the carving from the face of Stone Mountain altogether.
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.