“Monument – the Untold Story of Stone Mountain,” documentary by Kristian Weatherspoon, Producer
If you approach Stone Mountain from its back slope, it is a pleasant, airy, 30 degree hike with a great view. It was a former meeting place of the Creek and Cherokee. Stone Mountain is now a Georgia State Park with a golf course, a train ride, a meeting center, dinosaurs, a sky ride, hiking trails – its basically a weird amusement park around a granite dome. If you approach Stone Mountain from the front however, it has a big 'memorial' lawn and picnic area. Looming over that is a monstrous granite cliff face, with Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and 'Stonwall' Jackson chiseled into its surface. It is the largest Confederate monument in the world, 3 acres large, bigger than a football field.
Davis was the slave-owner president of the Confederacy; Lee its failed general and Jackson, one of its best generals, killed by friendly fire. They are all on horseback, riding across some mythical battlefield that might still exist.
I attended the Athens, Georgia premier of a recent documentary on Stone Mountain's 'sculpture' called Monument, with an audience of older, academic, light-skinned folks. It tells the story of the existence of this memorial as an enduring monument to the 'lost cause' and the Confederacy. The mild-mannered documentary was peopled by academics, who called the issue 'complex' and 'complicated.' It isn't. It's pretty fucking obvious. Instead they asked for dialog and discussion, without calling for its removal, though they implied it. Like I said, mild-mannered and typical of Southern liberals. In the documentary one former Georgia governor said that the memorial was objectionable only to black people. Hell, its objectionable to way more than that.
You might think this monstrosity was created right after the Civil War, but you'd be wrong. The first attempt to carve the mountain was started in the 1920s, including an attempt by Gutzon Borglum, the creator of Mount Rushmore. This was during a rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan used it as a meeting place in 1915 to re-invigorate their organization, as it had originally formed right after the Civil War. That year they inaugurated their rebirth by a Bible reading and the burning of a Christian cross at the summit of the mountain. After that the Klan had yearly meetings at Stone Mountain for decades, until 1962. 1915 was also the release of the racist Confederate film Birth of a Nation, which was originally called The Clansman. However, the first attempts at carving the mountain failed by 1928.
Then during the stirrings of the civil rights movement in the late 1950s, another attempt was made. The segregationist Georgia state government bought Stone Mountain in 1952 for $2M and created a private organization to create the bas relief. Georgia enshrined in their legal code a statement that these carvings could never be removed. (O.C.G.A. § 50-3-1, et. Seq). The law states that it was to remember the 'cause' for which these men fought. It wasn't until 1970 that the sculptures were inaugurated, and fully completed in 1972. Today Stone Mountain is a state park overseen by the legislature. Georgia removed the Confederate battle flag from its state flag in 2001 but the Rebs still have this defaced monolith.
As can be seen by the timing, the monument was prompted by a massive wave of KKK terror and Jim Crowism in the South; and then as a response to the African-American civil rights movement. These were both made possible by the violent and political defeat of Reconstruction in the 1870s. In a sense, while the Confederacy lost the open military struggle, it 'won' the peace with guerrilla tactics, leading to 90 years of fascistic 'black codes' and Jim Crow. In fact, it is still trying to win that peace after the setbacks of the 1960s. One older interviewee recalls that he thought the South had won the Civil War, given its treatment in his local school. The carvings are not really about the Civil War, they are about continuing white supremacy, racism and some kind of nationalistic southern sentiment, all to benefit the corporate rulers of the region.
In one of the small towns in Minnesota stands a monument to the Union war dead in the town square. That town, Northfield, also celebrates the defeat of the James-Younger gang during a botched bank raid there. They were shot up by former Union soldiers after stealing around $27. They were a bunch of killers who fought with the vicious Quantrill's Raiders in the Civil War, a Confederate unit based in Missouri. Some have called this one of the last battles of that war. The reason is the bank they tried to rob held assets of the former Reconstruction governor of Mississippi, Adelbert Ames, who owned the Ames flour mill in town. It was a revenge robbery. Yet the seemingly neo-Confederate 'Mississipi Encyclopedia' on-line site calls Ames a “carpetbagger.”
On the other hand in Georgia, at a time when Confederate monuments are coming down from New Orleans to Richmond to U.S. military bases, they stand dotted across the state in small town squares, standing guard in front of courthouses. The Georgia Statehouse lawn hosts a statue of General Gordon, a Confederate general who ably fought in the Eastern campaigns, then became a “staunch anti-Reconstruction” politician. Stone Mountain Park in 2021 made a small concession to include verbiage about the mountain's link to slavery and the Klan in its museum. This is how things are done in the South. But still no dynamite.
Link to documentary: https://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/monument/
Prior blog reviews on this subject, use blog search box, upper left, to investigate our 16 year archive, using these terms: “The Civil War in the U.S.” (Marx/Engels); “Why the South Lost the Civil War," "Lincoln" (Spielberg / Kushner); "Struggle & Progress," "The Neo-Confederate States," "Blockaders, Refugees and Contrabands," "The Bloody Shirt," "Guerillas, Unionists and Violence on the Confederate Home Front," "The Free State of Jones," "Andersonville Prison," "James-Younger Gang," "Southern Cultural Nationalism," "The Civil War in Florida," "A Blaze of Glory," "The State of Jones," "White Trash," "Drivin' Dixie Down" or use the words “Civil War” or “slavery."
The Cultural Marxist
February 2, 2023