The World’s Largest Confederate Monument Faces Renewed Calls for Removal

Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial, a nine-story-high bas-relief sculpture carved into a sprawling rock face northeast of Atlanta, is perhaps the South’s most audacious monument to its pro-slavery legacy still intact.

Despite long-standing demands for the removal of what many consider a shrine to racism, the giant depiction of three Confederate heroes on horseback still towers ominously over the Georgia countryside, protected by state law.

The monument – which reopens on Independence Day weekend after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close for weeks – has faced renewed calls for removal since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died during an arrest by a white police officer who pinned his neck to the ground with a knee.

The brutality of Floyd’s death, captured on cellphone video, triggered a national outcry against racial injustice, and revived a long-simmering battle between those demanding the removal of racist symbols from the public sphere, and those who believe monuments honor the tradition and history of the South.

“Here we are in Atlanta, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and still we have the largest Confederate monument in the world,” said Gerald Griggs, a vice president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP civil rights group, which staged a march last week calling for the carving to be scraped from the mountainside. “It’s time for our state to get on the right side of history.”

The sheer scale of the monument makes its removal a daunting task to contemplate. Longer than a 100-yard American football field, it features the likenesses of Jefferson Davis, the president of the 11-state Confederacy, and two of its legendary military leaders, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, notched in a relief 400 feet above ground.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans is an organization that staunchly defends Stone Mountain and other Confederate statues and emblems. Dedicated to teaching the “Southern Cause,” according to its website, it believes their removal is akin to purging American history.

The Southern or “Lost Cause of the Confederacy” holds that the war was fought over a heroic, but lost, effort to defend states’ rights to secede from the Union in the face of Northern aggression, rather than the preservation of slavery.

Martin O’Toole, an official of the Georgia chapter, said the monument is not a totem of racism at all. It’s history, plain and simple, he says.

“It’s three men on horses,” O’Toole said. “What’s racist about that?”

Maurice J. Hobson, an associate professor of African American Studies at Georgia State University, counters this, describing the Southern Cause as “a false history” that downplays slavery’s role in the Civil War.

He said the Confederate leaders were traitors to the United States who fought to hold onto a Southern economy that depended on slavery.

All three men featured on the monument, Davis, Lee and Jackson, were slave owners.

“The whole of Stone Mountain was erected to show what some white Georgians revered,” he said.

Stone Mountain has long held symbolism for white supremacists. The Ku Klux Klan, a hate group that was formed by Confederate Army veterans and has a history of lynchings and terror against Black people, held its rebirth ceremony atop mountain in 1915 with flaming crosses. Klansmen still hold occasional gatherings in the shadows of the edifice, albeit now met with protesters behind police tape. Many of those cross-burnings took place on or around July 4.

The monolithic monument was proposed more than a century ago and had numerous false starts over the years.

But with the rise of the Civil Rights Movement, segregationist officials in the state pushed for the creation the Stone Mountain Memorial Association in 1958 and purchased the park. The carving was completed in 1972.

“This debate has been going on for years, and we’re sensitive to it,” John Bankhead, a spokesman for the group, said. “We want to tell history as it is, not as some say it is.”

In the past, others have suggested putting more balance into the monument. There was a proposal to build a memorial to Martin Luther King Jr, the Atlanta-based civil rights icon, but the Sons of Confederate Veterans, as well the King family, rejected the idea.

Even though that idea floundered, Hobson advocates adding more carvings to the rock face, including African American historical figures and civil rights leaders.

“It needs to be put in a context that forces a conversation, a serious conversation,” he said. “The easiest way to rectify it, is surround it.”

Griggs of the NAACP said that the civil rights group has consulted with stone masons who said it would cost about $300,000 to $400,000 to remove the towering images.

“Take it down,” he said. “Restore the mountain to its original condition.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Frank McGurty and Aurora Ellis)

Responses

  1. It’s a piece of rock, dummies, and it’s owned by someone: the State? A private group? WE THE PEOPLE? Whatever made anyone think they had the right to destroy someone else’s property because they didn’t like it? If your neighbor put in a nice pool and you envied him, does that give you the right to take jackhammers to the pool? Another typical cancel culture move. Silence is violence. Speech can be answered with bricks if you disagree. Historical and religious sculpture, artwork and literature don’t care if you like them. They exist, have value. Get over yourselves. We don’t like the POS CHOP or tent cities. It must be wonderful to have such tiny, effete, c*nt brains filled with chalk rainbows, selfies, $500 phones, $300 shoes and absolutely no common sense.

  2. Birdy, Lee, Dilbert, Keith, all wrong. The population of blacks in America before and after the Civil War was approx. 12% of the total. Almost all were slaves. So, Slavery was not gone.

    The rich plantation owners (Democrats) didn’t want to give up their free labor, so they convinced the Southern states to secede from the Union, using ‘states rights’ as their reason. Nothing was further from the truth. It was about keeping slaves. At that time, the real wealth was in the North, Manufacturing, ship building, whaling, etc. There was no Northern Aggression. The Democrats used the same tactics as today to spread the Northern Aggression nonsense throughout the South. It still prevails today, as witnessed in some of the comments here.
    The South had to rely on foreign help to get cannons and weapons while the North built it’s own. After the North blockaded the sea, the South was cut off from it’s primary income (tobacco and cotton) and the aid from Europe.

    The North’s overwhelming wealth is what allowed it to win the war. By the time the war was over, the South was reduced to a beggar state, the plantations were broken up and given to most of the slaves in the form of 40 acres and a mule.

    The Democrats convinced the Southern mercantile owners and shop keepers to refuse to buy the crops of black farmers and the blacks had to sell their 40 acres.

    The Democrats voted against voting for blacks and formed the KKK to keep blacks in line. The KKK marched to the Democrat National Convention in 1924 to influence the Presidential nomination, 20,000 of them. With the New Deal, Democrats found a new way to control blacks, handouts. They got blacks hooked on handouts and campaigned on the claim that if blacks voted for Republicans, they would lose their welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers, etc. During the recent Democrats debates, every single candidate pledged some type of hand out to blacks, every one. This is the legacy of the Democrats over the last 165 years at least.

    The Democrat propaganda had the same effect that today’s media does convincing the populace of the South of a lie. Today, look at how many people have been convinced to believe in the Russian Collusion BS or institutionalized racism or that the Constitution is outdated or man made global warming exists, solar and wind energy claims, etc. Here’s one to think about. Liberals/Democrats would like everyone to drive an electric car. Well, It takes from .6 to 1.5 hours @440 volts to charge one of these cars. Think of the lines that would result if everyone had to charge their car on electricity. Think of the amount of electricity needed to complete that on a daily basis. Think of the size of the local power grids necessary. Everyone’s home would have to be rewired to 440 volts or take 8 – 10 hours at 220 volts. Or, you can fill a gasoline car in about 5 minutes and the nations electrical grid doesn’t have to be rebuilt. You do the math.

  3. The slavery issue was mostly resolved in the South before the Civil War began. The Civil War was primarily about states rights, and the North wanted the Confederate States of America to rejoin the Union. There were very few slaves left in the South, and they were already being processed out. People need to really start studying original documents and stop reading revisionist history.

  4. Delbert, you’re thinking is only superficial about a very complex issue. Was the War fought to free the slaves? Absolutely not. Was it slavery that caused the War? Absolutely. Slavery enabled the development of an actual aristocratic elite, the Southern Plantation owner. It also put vast sums of money in the pockets of Northern textile manufacturers as well as English producers. This aristocracy tended to look down their nose at the “rabble” in the North. In return, Northerners held that the Southerners only held their positions because of slavery. While there were a handful of very vocal abolitionists in the North, most of the friction between the sections came from this jealousy and the Southern reaction to it. People from the two sections came to despise each other without really knowing why, as a general dislike was passed down to the next generation and became a given. The succeeding generations in the North, determined to hurt the despised Southerners, tried to undermine the “institution” of slavery and allowed the operation of the Underground Railroad and did whatever else they could to constrict slavery. But it wasn’t because they viewed slavery as wrong, but because it was a means of hurting the despised Southerners. This attitude in the North led to what was a huge issue of the mid-19th century, that of the financing of “internal improvements.” Massive projects were undertaken in the North with tax money that was primarily received from the South. That further fueled Southern dislike and distrust of Northerners. The fear of the South was that an eventual takeover of the federal government by the North would not only eventually eliminate slavery from the Southern economy, but that taxation on the Southern States for the benefit of the North would also increase. The hatred was so strong between the regions that in early 1861 when Congress proposed the ORIGINAL 13th Amendment, which gave Constitutional protection to the institution of slavery, that proposal was rejected by the South out of hand. That was because the issue of slavery was not the issue over which the War would be fought. Rather it was the culmination of approximately 50 years of petty jealousies, growing dislike and absolute distrust between the sections.

  5. Nope. The only state’s rights any Southern leader cared about were the rights to own property in man, the right never to have that right of ownership contravened, and the right to degrade negro citizens, and the right to own the children of their slaves. Nothing else counted. Many more than a small club of very rich plantation men owned slaves; about 32%, though most of them owned only one or two. What united Southerners against the Union was the worry that they would have to compete in a free labor market against free blacks. The miserable backwardness of Southern rural life for whites was made endurable by the consolation that, hell, at least I ain’t colored. The Southern economy was organized on cotton grown by rich men and their armies of slaves, dealing primarily with England, selling to England with money borrowed from England and consuming goods imported in English ships. It was a society built to serve a tiny class, its black citizens imprisoned by slavery, its poor whites enslaved by racism. It was the worry that slave states would be outnumbered in Congress by states that detested slavery, that their right to be slavers in perpetuity would someday be voted away, that led the South to secession.

    There was one state’s right that the South hated, by the way. That was the right Northern states asserted, to make illegal slavery within their own borders. Couldn’t stand that.

  6. Maurice Hobson is totally wrong inhis assessment. Tge Civil War WAS about states rights. Most people in the south didn’t own slaves. Only a small percentage of tge rich plantation owners had tgem. Does Hobson really think that all the men who fought for the south really did it so a few rich people could have their slaves?!!! Come on!!! Get with the program man.

  7. John. People such as yourself are the problem. You have no meaningful argument, so you raise your middle finger. When I go to NFL games this year I will take a knee during the Black National Anthem and stand for the original National Anthem. You are being led by communist as is BLM.

  8. They are organized and you are not. Will keep happening until you push back

  9. Yeah, wipe it clean and make shrine to thugs, rapists, child molesters and thieves. Black history!

  10. John: I agree with the first half of your statement the second is completely ridiculous given the many, many people that finger should not apply to. (Or are you if the misguided belief that the south is only populated by whites?)

  11. I’ve been to the monument and it’s sheer size is impressive and it did make me think on the atrocity of slavery. True it may be “historical” but nonetheless it’s continued existence is disturbing to say the least.

  12. Trowel it over with concrete and put a fully raised middle finger in its place.

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