What To Do With America’s Largest Confederate Monument? – Cheddar Explains

published on August 2, 2020

The confederate soldiers and sailors monument in birmingham alabama disassembled on june 1st 2020 a statue of albert pike in washington dc toppled by protesters and set on fire on june 2020 a statue of a confederate soldier

In raleigh north carolina pulled down and dragged through the streets by protesters on june 20th 2020 all of these monuments have been points of contention in their local communities for years calls for their removal along

With hundreds of confederate memorials across the country have taken over the headlines thousands have taken to the streets in protest of police brutality and racial inequality following the

Killing of george floyd in minneapolis state leaders have responded to these calls ordering the removal of any and all statues commemorating the confederacy but the largest monument to the

Confederacy still remains the stone mountain monument in georgia the mount rushmore of the confederacy it sits 400 feet above the ground and features a 42 foot deep 76 by 158 foot carving of confederate

President jefferson davis and generals robert e lee and stonewall jackson but removing it could require bitter political debate and a year-long process of blowing it off piece by piece with explosives

So what should america do with its largest confederate monument and why is it existed this long well its history is more troubling than you might have imagined stone mountain is a geological wonder at

1 683 feet tall and covering 583 acres it is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world and humans have been interested in the mountain for centuries paleo indians

Showed interest in the mountain structure as early as 4000 bc and stone walls were erected at the top of the mountain likely sometime between 100 bc and 500 ad but it wasn't until the late

1800s that humans began using the mountain on a more massive scale in 1869 stone mountain granite and railway company began mining the geological structure for granite

This job would later be taken over by the venable brothers in 1882 who would harvest two hundred thousand paving blocks per day remember that name it'll be important later

The granite from stone mountain has found its way around the world blocks from the quarry form parts of the steps on the east wing of the us capitol other blocks are used in the locks of

The panama canal and in the imperial hotel building in tokyo but others saw value in stone mountain beyond its granite in 1915 stone mountain became a center point of the ku klux klans revival

This was fueled by two main events the first involves a twin murder in 1913 a 13 year old child laborer named mary fagan was found strangled in an atlanta pencil factory

Leo frank the factory superintendent and member of a prominent jewish family was falsely convicted of the murder his original death sentence was changed to a life sentence which angered members of the kkk

An armed mob snatched frank from a prison and hung him in the girl's hometown in 1915 later in 1986 a witness would come forward and the georgia board of parole would grant frank a posthumous pardon

The second event was the atlanta debut of dw griffiths birth of a nation this silent film depicted african-americans as sexual predators who defiled white women all while portraying the kkk as heroes

Coming to the rescue the film motivated william j simmons who became the fraternal organizer of the second kkk on thanksgiving night in 1915 he led a group of 15 men to the summit of stone

Mountain they set up an altar opened a bible and burned a 16-foot cross as part of an initiation ceremony this ushered in a new era of white nationalist terrorism

Around the same time the revisionist lost cause of the confederacy movement was on the rise this ideology sought to minimize preserving slavery and instead maximize southern honor and state

Sovereignty it held that the cause fought for by the confederate states during the civil war was a just heroic one editor john temple graves also published an editorial in the atlanta georgian on

June 14th 1914 graves argument was straightforward the south deserved a monument dedicated to its confederate heroes and stone mountain was the perfect blank

Slate the first fundraising campaign to construct the monument began in 1915 honorary life president of the atlanta united daughters of the confederacy helen c plain pushed to erect a memorial for her husband and

Other confederate soldiers who lost their lives in the civil war she brought the idea of a memorial before the city and state chapters of the united daughters of the confederacy and quickly gained support soon after

The group selected klansmen goodson borglum as the sculptor and construction was set to begin in 1916 borglum's vision for the monument centered around a carving of former president of the confederacy jefferson davis and

Generals robert e lee and stonewall jackson the leaders were to be surrounded by an army of as many as 1 000 figures spread across the face of the mountain but due to funding issues and world war

One construction didn't begin until 1923 after a year's work borglum could only carve general lee's head and in 1925 a disagreement between borglum and management

Led him to leave the project and go on to carve mount rushmore at this point the land deed from the venable brothers only had three years remaining before it was set to expire a second sculptor augustus lukeman

Removed borglum's previous work and carved out the three figures we see today but was forced to leave the project in 1928 the land deed expired and the venables took back their claim on the mountain

The monument remained untouched for the next 36 years then in the 1950s people began to take interest in the project yet again the 1954 brown v board of education decision made it unconstitutional for

Schools to remain segregated this along with the growing influence of the civil rights movement sparked the revival of stone mountain's construction the anti-civil rights sentiment was pervasive

In his inaugural address governor to be marvin griffin addressed his constituents on his disdain of the country's changing environment stating that so long as marvin griffin is your governor there will be

No mixing of the races in the classrooms of our schools and colleagues of georgia griffin went on to purchase the rights to the mountain with assistance from the georgia general assembly using 1 million dollars in public funds

He made the stone mountain memorial association a state authority which gave him the power to appoint its board of directors griffin and the stonemount memorial association chose walter kirkland hancock as the third

Sculptor and the work would resume in 1964 the dedication ceremony was held in 1970 and the gargantuan confederate monument was finally finished two years later i grew up in tucker just

Five miles from stone mountain went to church in stone mountain episcopal church right at the base of the mountain and episcopalians like catholics have a midnight mass christmas eve this is professor charles

S bullock iii a professor of political science at the university of georgia and i remember multiple years going to church and coming out at midnight and looking

Up on the mountain and seeing the burning cross of the ku klux klan and i thought wow here we are celebrating you know this christian holiday of forgiveness and love and

Air several hundred feet above me is a symbol of hate little has changed in terms of the mountain's physical structure but there has been a major shift in how the monument is perceived

What started out as an area synonymous with the kkk's gatherings and a renewal of white supremacist activity has over the years become a topic for debate over what should be done with the carving

Should it be torn down or should it remain untouched for those who want to preserve it the argument comes down to embracing its heritage and preserving history i guess one of the

Arguments against it is that you really can't erase history that uh whether you liked or not there was a confederacy and um you know it did exist and um as well the people know about it and put

It in the context of what it was all about and then maybe even uses the baseline to say well you know those were terrible times we've come a long way since then still many others call for the removal

Of the memorial arguing that keeping it intact will only preserve the long-held symbolism of white supremacy that defined a generation of terror for many african americans what is the

Culture of racism the cultural white supremacy that is what it does it celebrates white supremacy as part of georgia's state's policy that is the significance

The the confederate states of america fought a war against the united states and we should not be celebrating their fight to against america not that you

Don't remember it but it's nothing to celebrate that's richard rose the president of the atlanta chapter of the naacp he is also the president of the national coalition to end the confederates

Whose main goal is to end the public display of confederate monuments and celebrations my role and my goal is to undo the normalization of these things these things have kind

Of been hidden in plain sight many others agree with rose arguing that the stone mountain monument symbolizes a history of hate and oppression well i mean right now the cultural significance is

Um a symbol of paid and that's you know that's part of our past so that's a real thing but it's not something that we should really celebrate it's an opportunity to transform that symbol of hate into a symbol of peace

But we have to do something we have to do something to make that happen we have to be deliberate and intentional about it it has to change now what would removing the monument entail first and foremost there is one

Significant legal barrier to overcome the memorial is explicitly protected by state law in 2001 georgia voted to remove its confederate stars and bars from the state flag

This pushed confederate supporters to pass a state law that protected the stone mountain carving from being altered removed concealed or obscured in any fashion for all time also a 2017 poll conducted

By npr pbs newshour and marist university indicated that 62 percent of respondents believe statues honoring confederate leaders should remain standing as historic

Symbols with these views permeating the debate the removal process becomes lengthy and likely politically controversial and that's not even taking into consideration the practicality of the

Project what took decades to carve out would also take a year-long process to remove monuments we've seen you know you can hook a crane up to and you can lift it and remove it

Now this is this is multi-acres of space we're talking about i have no doubt with enough dynamite you could you could blast it off but then what i've read is it would take years perhaps of planning exactly how

You're going to going to blast this off the discussion of how to remove the memorial hasn't stopped at the use of powerful dynamite in fact some have proposed a more natural less costly alternative

The real problem with it is that it sits at the end of the sort of triumphant view this you know lawn or mall kind of situation so we can let you know we can stop cleaning

It and the trees would start to grow on vegetation just like they grow in every other crack in the mountains big trees coming out of little tiny cracks it would grow vegetation for sure if it wasn't cleaned

And then that lawn can just grow back into a forest gravel proposes that this method could cause less damage to the mountain and the area surrounding it than if the mountain were to be blasted off

If you could do that the sculpture's still there technically but it illustrates an intention of where we where we're going as a state as a culture as a people

But also for the park today with around 4 million visitors each year stone mountain park is georgia's most visited tourist attraction and offers outdoor amenities like hiking trails an amusement park and a popular laser

Show so the monument and its controversial history is not always at the forefront of visitors minds as they enter into the park i think a lot of people don't know what it is i was at the mountain a few weeks

Ago ran into a young couple at the base of the mountain they were talking about it as a um engineering feat you know they had no idea who the people were they didn't know that those

People were you know had that history and that they had fought to protect slavery and all of that but for others it's impossible and even immoral to remain ignorant of its

Origins it is a carving of hate and so one more than a third of georgia's are african-american citizens so it does harm to that group by its mere presence every day

The monument they were carved for the wrong reason they were carved forth to to celebrate rice's supremacy and white superiority and as long as that monument stands there on state property

It's the the state is endorsing racism it's endorsing racial depression it's endorsing a big racial bigotry and so that's why it should be renewed

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