Stone Mountain Monument To Remain…For Now

I welcome the changes announced yesterday by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. Relocate the Confederate flags to a less prominent location in the park. Build a state-of-the-art museum/educational center to highlight the complicated history of the monument as a Lost Cause symbol, rallying place for the Ku Klux Klan, and symbol of resistance against civil rights.

While these changes are all welcome it is important to keep in mind that they will not defuse the fundamental problem that these monuments pose for many Americans. The past six years has exposed what many people have long understood. Confederate monuments have long been perceived, especially by African Americans, as symbols of racism and oppression.

The most recent wave of monument removals going back to 2015 have taken place in the shadow of Dylann Roof and the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Since the police murder of George Floyd, on this day in 2020, just under 100 Confederate monuments have been removed or relocated.

The changes coming to Stone Mountain are only stop gap measures. A new museum exhibit will showcase a story of how these monuments have helped to enshrine a Lost Cause memory of the war that, in turn, reinforced white supremacy during the Jim Crow era and beyond. The museum’s interpretation will itself work to rally even more people behind finding a way to remove the sculpture from the side of the mountain.

Confederate monuments have become and, arguably, have always been political battlegrounds. The trend over the past few years couldn’t be clearer. These monuments will continue to be removed. It certainly can’t be denied that Stone Mountain monument is the most intractable of them all given its sheer size.

But its ultimate fate has been determined. It’s simply a matter of time.

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19 comments… add one
  • Craig L. Aug 6, 2021 @ 0:48

    I visited Stone Mountain what will be twenty years ago this October with my wife and two senior Samoan nurses who were attending an international nursing conference in Atlanta. I did not at the time know or even really suspect that I have a Civil War ancestor who died in the war or that that German immigrant ancestor had a German immigrant brother-in-law, half his age, who was wounded in the Battle of Atlanta at Bald Hill, which was renamed Leggett’s Hill after the Union officer who ordered the 12th and 16th Wisconsin regiments into battle at that location. The wound my great great grandmother’s younger brother suffered resulted in a disability pension that I suspect motivated my Civil War ancestor to enlist as a replacement troop with the 27th Wisconsin five months later. It wasn’t until five years after my visit to Stone Mountain that I was able to amass enough information to begin blogging about my discovery of my Civil War ancestor. I did make a visit in 2002 to Berlin which added fuel to the fever in my brain, but otherwise all of the information I acquired came from the advent of the internet except perhaps for the smoking gun, the service and pension records in the National Archives for my great great grandfather, his widow’s younger brother and another brother-in-law, the husband of his widow’s younger sister. Those documents were ordered and arrived by snail mail. Both brothers-in-law were witness signatories on my great great grandmother’s application for widow’s benefits. Those benefits were denied because her marriage to my great great grandfather took place in Prussia and could not be verified by the Union army. So instead, a year later, she married her next door neighbor, also a German immigrant, who was able to obtain benefits for each of his newly acquired step-children until they reached the age of 21. Much if not all of my recovery of the history of the first fifty years of my father’s family in America was triggered by my visit to Stone Mountain.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 6, 2021 @ 2:15

      Thanks for sharing, Craig.

  • London John Jun 1, 2021 @ 2:03

    I believe “Stone Mountain, Georgia” meant the launch of the contemporary KKK even before the statues were made. I’d heard of it in that context here in Britain long before I knew there were statues.

  • Andersonh1 May 25, 2021 @ 14:43

    “The past six years has exposed what many people have long understood. Confederate monuments have long been perceived, especially by African Americans, as symbols of racism and oppression.”

    You phrase it as though this view is nigh-universal, but that’s hardly the case. The Confederate monuments have also long been seen as many other things, by many other people, including some African Americans. I understand this blog takes the side that these monuments should be torn down, but there are other points of view, often in the majority, which do not want them torn down or destroyed. I am thankful that the side that wants them destroyed is in the minority, and hopefully will remain so.

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2021 @ 14:51

      I understand this blog takes the side that these monuments should be torn down…

      As I’ve said numerous times, I believe this is a local matter. I’ve never suggested that there is a universal view of anything, let alone monuments.

    • Margaret Blough May 25, 2021 @ 17:14

      In many cases, these monuments were unambiguously intended, when they were erected, to be symbols of racism and oppression. You look at the dates they were erected, the newspaper coverage of their erection and dedication, the speeches at the dedication, the locations. Many were intended to send a message to Blacks and their supporters that Reconstruction was dead and whites were back in total control in the South.

      I’m with Kevin. The decision as to the future of these monuments should be on a community basis, with all points of view having their say.

      • Kevin Levin May 26, 2021 @ 1:13

        The other thing that is important to remember is that many of these monuments were placed in the public spaces where the majority of the population was African American. The problem is not that they don’t reflect the values of the community today, but that in many cases they never did. Disfranchisement cut Blacks off from entering these conversations and voicing their own preferences.

        • Will Barnett Jul 20, 2021 @ 8:59

          “The other thing that is important to remember is that many of these monuments were placed in the public spaces where the majority of the population was African American.”

          This isn’t even remotely true. Many of these areas were majority white during the early 20th century and have become black due to white flight, etc. Stone Mountain, GA is an example of this. It used to overwhelmingly white, now it is overwhelmingly black.

          I know as y’all move the goalposts from monuments of generals to monuments of confederate dead, you have to revise your arguments. Unfortunately, the argument that these monuments are actually monuments to Jim Crow is nonsensical.

          • Kevin Levin Jul 20, 2021 @ 11:01

            Thanks for taking the time to comment, but I stick by my claim.

            Monument Map

      • Walter D Kamphoefner May 27, 2021 @ 19:21

        Case in point: until it was renamed in 2017, Houston had a street named after a Confederate defender of Texas, Dick Dowling. His modern supporters pointed out that Dowling never owned slaves, but neglect to mention that he leased two of them, including a 12 year old boy, in 1860.
        More problematic than naming a street after Confederate Dick Dowling was when and where it was done: on the edge of Emancipation Park in the middle of a black neighborhood, in 1892, a time when African Americans were again being excluded from the political process in Texas, sometimes by domestic terrorism. It was deliberately offensive at the time, and its renaming to Emancipation Avenue was entirely appropriate.

        p.s. about Dowling saving Texas: Texas was never a priority for the Yankees, or they would have sent Sherman there instead of political general Nathanael Banks.

  • Diane Hyra May 25, 2021 @ 13:42

    Thanks for sharing this, Kevin; I hadn’t heard this news. Unlike Richmond’s Monument Avenue where the Confederate statues were smack dab in the middle of one of the most beautiful streets in the city, Stone Mountain is out of the way and requires an entrance fee to see. For that reason, it never seemed as offensive to me since if you don’t want to see it, you can easily avoid it. I guess it is good that a museum is being planned but I never saw it as problematic as statues in front of state capitols or those on Monument Avenue. What am I missing?

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2021 @ 14:04

      For starters the park is financed with state tax dollars. The local community has long protested having to live in the shadow of Stone Mountain. Finally, that it exists at all is problematic for many people.

      • Diane Hyra May 25, 2021 @ 14:55

        I didn’t know there are public funds involved, nor that locals were unhappy with it. I do agree that decisions on the Confederate statues and monuments should be made locally.

  • Brad Greenberg May 25, 2021 @ 12:00

    The “Confederate Monuments” are only a tiny piece and a large symbol of our real problem: tell a Big Lie long enough and loud enough, people will believe it

    • Walter Kamphoefner May 25, 2021 @ 13:03

      Lost Cause Political Correctness has suppressed the memory of patriotic Southern Unionists, and even tried to change the name of the war from the one favored by Jefferson Davis, the Civil War, to the “War Between the States,” a term virtually unheard of before 1900. It might just be coincidence, but this is about the time that all the Confederate monuments started sprouting up.

  • Fergus M Bordewich May 25, 2021 @ 10:41

    This is a step in the right direction. I wouldn’t grieve if they chiseled the sculptures off. But in truth I think that the revision of the site to address the complex history of memorializing the Confederacy will prove much more valuable to our understanding of the past than a blank stone face would be.

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2021 @ 10:52

      Thanks for the comment. I agree that the museum will certainly help to educate the public, but I do think it is important that we not see it as a solution to the underlying problems that the monument itself poses.

  • Walter Kamphoefner May 25, 2021 @ 10:30

    I wouldn’t like the see the sculpture “Talibanned,” but I suspect there are some smoking guns in the press and legislative discussions, both in the 1915 Klan Rally and the state funding decision in 1958, that need to be in the new museum.

    • Kevin Levin May 25, 2021 @ 10:37

      You are probably right.

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