The Future of Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain, Georgia, is many things to many people, but one cannot dispute that it is a place that celebrates Confederate heritage. Sometimes the connection might make some people feel uneasy (not so for others). Nor is it the first time the Confederate carvings there have been the subject of controversy. But here we are again, as people discuss what to do with Stone Mountain … if anything.

I think Stone Mountain is amusing, but then again I find most representations of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson outside of Virginia (and, in Jackson’s case, West Virginia) to be amusing. Aside from a short period in 1861/62 when Lee was placed in charge of the coastal defense of South Carolina and Georgia, neither general stepped foot in Georgia during the war. Lee cut off furloughs to Georgia’s soldiers later in the war because he was convinced that once home they’d never come back. He resisted the dispatch of James Longstreet’s two divisions westward to defend northern Georgia, and he had no answer when Sherman operated in the state. It would be better to see Joseph E. Johnston and John Bell Hood on the mountain, although it probably would have been difficult to get those two men to ride together. Maybe Braxton Bragg would have been a better pick, but no one calls him the hero of Chickamauga. Yet Bragg, Johnston, and Hood all attempted to defend Georgia, and they are ignored on Stone Mountain. So is Joe Wheeler, whose cavalry feasted off Georgians in 1864; so is John B. Gordon, wartime hero and postwar Klansman (given Stone Mountain’s history, Klansman Gordon would have been a good choice).

It’s also amusing to see Jefferson Davis represented. Yes, Davis came to Georgia, once to try to settle disputes within the high command of the Army of Tennessee (not a rousing success) and once to rally white Georgians to the cause once more after the fall of Atlanta. But any serious student of the war knows that Davis spent much of his presidency arguing with Georgia governor Joseph Brown about Georgia’s contribution to the Confederate war effort, and that the vice president of the Confederacy, Georgia’s own Alexander Hamilton Stephens, was not a big supporter of his superior. Yet we don’t see Brown or Stephens on Stone Mountain, either.

What we see on Stone Mountain, in short, is a fabricated representation of Confederate unity, harmony, and success, when in fact the real story of Georgia’s Confederate years suggests otherwise.

Currently people are discussing several courses of action concerning the carvings on Stone Mountain. One, of course, is to retain the status quo. At the opposite extreme is a proposal to eliminate the carvings of Davis, Lee, and Jackson. One group proposed adding Outkast to the mountainside.

Who’s Outkast, you ask?

I can see playing this back-to-back with “Dixie,” can’t you?

More interesting is a proposal to add more icons of Georgia and Southern heritage to the mountainside. Figures suggested include Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King, Jr. As King shares a January holiday with Lee and Jackson in several states, there’s no good objection to extend that to Stone Mountain, right?

At the heart of this proposal, folks, is a very simple question: is southern heritage more than simply Confederate heritage? When some people claim they are defending southern heritage, aren’t they really just defending Confederate heritage, and reducing the history of the South to a short period of time?

By the way, there’s the usual debate over the display of Confederate flags, too.

It will be interesting to see how this discussion plays out.

47 thoughts on “The Future of Stone Mountain

  1. OhioGuy July 22, 2015 / 12:25 pm

    Brooks, I have a question related to Thomas Jackson (aka Stonewall). Where do you think he was born? The folks in Clarksburg say he was born there. In Parkersburg there is a large plaque on the flood wall that says Stonewall was born near this spot in the cabin of her sister when Mrs. Jackson was visiting there while pregnant. The Parkersburg plaque was put up by a chapter of the UDC, an organization not know for its historical accuracy as general rule. Have you run across this Parkersburg claim before? Do you give it any credence? Ironically, if true, Wood County (of which Parkersburg is the county seat) was overwhelmingly pro-Union during the late insurrection.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 22, 2015 / 12:29 pm

      I admit to not having given this question a great deal of thought.

      • James F. Epperson July 22, 2015 / 12:50 pm

        Part of my father’s family is from near Ansted, WV. Somewhere along the roads in that area is a marker to the grave of Jackson’s mother. I’ve always been amused that they would mark the grave of the mother.

        • OhioGuy July 22, 2015 / 11:06 pm

          Also, I assume you know about his Unionist sister, who said when he was killed that she was sad her brother was dead but that she’d rather see him dead than a leader of the rebel army.

          • MSB July 23, 2015 / 12:20 pm

            Now that’s sad, like George Thomas’ sisters turning his picture to the wall when he stayed with the Union, or the family of McPherson’s fiancée celebrating news of his death.
            Speaking of weird monuments, I saw the one to Stonewall’s amputated arm. The man himself, ok, but I draw the line at body parts.

      • Rosieo July 23, 2015 / 11:06 am

        Even if he was born in Parkersburg, his birth certificate might still have been issued from his home base as he would be part of that population. This is pure speculation!! ( I’m learning research and did a quick lookup. VMI says born in Clarksburg. I would contact someone who studied him)

        We know for sure his mug is on a mountain in Georgia…

  2. Jimmy Dick July 22, 2015 / 12:33 pm

    OutKast! I say we put them on the face right next to the confederates. I can think of several people to put there as well like MLK and other heroes of the Civil Rights movement.

    If you want musicians, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Ray Charles, B.B. King, and more. Aretha, Tina, and plenty of others as well.

    Of course if you really want to drive the neo-confederates crazy, just put a good ol carving of Barack Obama on there.

      • Jimmy Dick July 23, 2015 / 7:23 am

        Can’t handle a black man as president? Or a black man on Stone Mountain? What’s next? Going to say I don’t understand things because I was not born and raised in a southern state? That’s blown up in your face so many times I would think you would get gun shy repeating the cliche so many times.

  3. Sandi Saunders July 22, 2015 / 12:39 pm

    The bane of the South is that the Confederacy and the supporters of the Confederacy have been very good at getting people to believe that is all there is to the South and the heritage of the South. It is a big black mark against a group already too dysfunctional, dishonest, crude, angry and ignorant to even BE descendants of the South. SMH!

    • Betty Giragosian July 22, 2015 / 9:15 pm

      We don’t like you either, Sandi Yes, I am glad to be a descendant of the South. I don’t care what you think of us. I do not know you. .

      • Charles Persinger July 23, 2015 / 7:02 am

        I don’t understand why people are so proud of something they had no control over!!!! We don’t choose where we’re born– we don’t choose our race or who are decedents happened to have been!! So what you’re basically saying is “I’m proud of an indiscriminate occurrence. “

      • Rosieo July 23, 2015 / 10:41 am

        If you do not know Sandi, how do you know you do not like her?

  4. OhioGuy July 22, 2015 / 12:40 pm

    Well, perhaps, one of your enlightened followers might know something about this issue. I live only 30 miles — as the crow flies — from Parkersburg so maybe I need to do some local digging and try to discover the answer myself. 😉

  5. Brad July 22, 2015 / 1:08 pm

    You want to put up some musicians like B.B. King and others like Aretha, Otis Redding, etc.

    Outkast and that ilk, no thanks!

  6. Rob Baker July 22, 2015 / 1:09 pm

    Indeed, the holy trinity of the Confederacy.

    The Stone Mountain issue arises every so often but it has picked up steam in the wake of the Charleston tragedy. The Atlanta Branch of the NAACP (not to be confused with the Georgia NAACP) wanted the Confederate Generals and Jeff Davis sandblasted off without any additions in mind. Later, a petition circulated to add Outkast to the mountain. The photo-shopped pictures usually show this as an addition, not a replacement. That petition began as a joke but then gained social media support. I do not think anyone is really taking that suggestion seriously.

    Recently, the Atlanta City Council voted to have Governor Deal look into replacing the three Confederate figures with Georgia specific historical figures. The suggestions were James Oglethorpe, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jimmy Carter. This is an interesting proposal, of course I wish the suggestions were additions and not replacements.

    • Betty Giragosian July 22, 2015 / 9:17 pm

      I hope you are kidding. Stone Mountain has its own identify Just leave it alone.

      • Brooks D. Simpson July 22, 2015 / 10:24 pm

        But what identity is that? The identity associated with the resurgence of the KKK?

      • Rob Baker July 23, 2015 / 9:52 am

        Nope, I’m not “kidding.” Stone Mountain has two identities actually. One is a lie, one is the reality. Guess which one is on display?

  7. Bob Nelson July 22, 2015 / 2:34 pm

    We hear/read the term neo-Confederate all the time, right? So what’s the opposite of a neo-Confederate? “Neo,” meaning modern or new, is often used with other nouns or adjectives — everybody knows this — to describe things that exist in the present in a different light from the way they existed in the past. Neoconservatives, e.g. The only antonym I can find for “Neo” is nonmodern. So if we have neo-Confederates attempting to reinterpret history, would the rest of us (those who don’t) be nonmodern Confederates?

      • Bob Nelson July 22, 2015 / 2:59 pm

        Me neither. Just one of those stray thoughts zipping around in my mind.

  8. Debbie Page July 22, 2015 / 7:20 pm

    In keeping with your logic on Stone Mountain, why exactly are Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt carved into Mount Rushmore in South Dakota? How many of these men have been to South Dakota? In fact, how many of these men were even alive around the time Dakota became a territory or South Dakota became a state?

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 22, 2015 / 7:34 pm

      Ah, but Mount Rushmore’s a national monument … and perhaps you have forgotten the Louisiana Purchase. I assume you know when Theodore Roosevelt was alive, and I assume you know that Dakota became a territory two days before Lincoln became president. So I’m puzzled as to why you would ask these questions, because anyone should be able to answer them.🙂

      In any case, I’m simply pointing out that none of these three men did much for Georgia during its stay in the Confederacy. Stone Mountain is more about heritage than history, unless we want to discuss its history in relation to the KKK.

      At least you’re a bit calmer that Ms. Chastain, who erupted about this post. I loved it. Maybe she’ll love this:

      http://captiongenerator.com/48351/Hitler-Rants-About-Confederate-Flag-Removal

      • Betty Giragosian July 22, 2015 / 9:28 pm

        I am no friend of Connie’s but I erupted too. I thought it was a bit beneath you. I try to remember that unless one is ‘bawn and bred” in the South, there is no way those who are not can understand or feel it.. It has to be born in you.

        Well maybe some day it will all be gone, and I do wonder what will be your topics then?

        I thought the comments tonight were unusually nasty. Hope all you people don’t come down here.

        • Brooks D. Simpson July 22, 2015 / 10:23 pm

          I simply said the truth about Georgia and the Confederacy. It was a troubled relationship. If that bothers you, so be it. But I note that for all the talk about feelings, the use of facts to counter my essay are in short supply. I don’t think it’s beneath a historian to use facts, although that skill seems to be beneath some heritage people.

          Southern heritage is not Confederate heritage, and not all born and bred southerners have Confederate ancestors. As there were more slaves than Confederate soldiers, one might wonder why you want to privilege the feelings of a minority over a majority in terms of descendants.

          • Debbie Page July 23, 2015 / 3:40 am

            The Louisiana Purchase?? That’s reaching pretty far back just to get Jefferson up there. That still doesn’t account for Washington. Or Lincoln for that matter. Did he visit Dakota? Since he wasn’t President yet, he can’t claim any responsibility it becoming a territory.

            Also, did you know that in 1925, the US Mint issued Stone Mountain half dollars to help fund the carving project? The FEDERAL GOVERNMENT actually approved and assisted with the funding. Wouldn’t that make Stone Mountain a National Monument, as well? It’s only been in the last couple decades that people have been hyper-sensitive about anything to do with slavery and blaming the Southern States for all of racism, when there are people all over this country that are filled with hate (and they’re not all white or southern, either). Getting rid of these symbols WILL NOT get rid of the hate.

          • Brooks D. Simpson July 23, 2015 / 8:22 am

            You asked questions, I answered them. You seem sore that people in Georgia want to talk about Stone Mountain. What happened to state rights and local control? Now you want to make Stone Mountain a national monument to protect it from Georgians?

        • John Foskett July 23, 2015 / 7:56 am

          Just who is included in the group that qualifies as “bawn and bred in the South”? I’ll wager that if it’s taken literally, there are an awful lot of folks in the group who feel much differently about this than you do. I suspect, however, that by that phrase you mean a narrower group – with unfortunate, historically meaningful implications.

        • Rob Baker July 23, 2015 / 9:58 am

          I was “bawn and bred” in the South. The Confederacy is founded on white supremacy, the Confederate Battle Flag is a racist symbol, and Stone Mountains inception and carving has extreme racial overtones both in its creation and its reverence over time.

          • David Annable July 25, 2015 / 8:58 am

            Debbie brought up the Stone Mountain Commemorative Half Dollar from 1925 as some sort of proof of federal government approval. First off, many odd commemorative coins were issues in the first half of the 20th Century and it’s hard to infer any meaning from some of them at all.

            The Stone Mountain coin is remarkable because it was controversial at the time. Q. David Bowers in his seminal work on American commemorative coins said this “Although the bill for the Stone Mountain half dollars stated the coins would relate to soldiers of the South in two wars, mention of the Civil War was omitted, although that was what the Stone Mountain Memorial was all about! If the coin had been proposed as a Confederate commemorative half dollar, which it what it really was, undoubtedly the bill would not have passed. In addition, the coins were intended to honor the memory of Warren G. Harding… the mention of Harding was a sop to Northerners, who objected to the idea of honoring Confederate heroes.” (Bowers, Q.D. (1991) Commemorative Coins of the US. p.193).

            Harding was even left off of the coin in the end. The bill to make the coin only passed because the purpose of the coin was somewhat hidden and a distraction in President Harding was thrown in. The GAR even tried to prevent the coin from being made as they felt it was honoring treason.

            In the end the coin didn’t sell all that well. 5,000,000 were authorized. 2,314,709 were actually made and about 1,000,000 ended up being melted down.

            The Wikipedia Article about it’s pretty good (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_Mountain_Memorial_half_dollar) if you want to learn more about how that coin was a debacle and mess. One thing can be said, whatever that coin was, it certainly was not federal acknowledgement of Stone Mountain as a National Monument.

  9. Brooks D. Simpson July 22, 2015 / 7:41 pm

    As Wikipedia reminds us:

    Borglum agreed to include a Ku Klux Klan altar in his plans for the memorial to acknowledge a request of Helen Plane in 1915, who wrote to him: “I feel it is due to the KKK that saved us from Negro domination and carpetbag rule, that it be immortalized on Stone Mountain”.

    Borglum did both Stone Mountain and Mount Rushmore, and it was a comment about the latter that reminded me of the former. He also did a nice scuplture of Phil Sheridan in Washington, DC, just west of Dupont Circle. He also did the North Carolina monument at Gettysburg and a memorial entitled “Aviator” at UVA near Alderman Library.

    • Betty Giragosian July 22, 2015 / 9:31 pm

      If one does not like Stone Mountain, then don’t go there. The NC monument at Gettysburg is beautiful.

      • Brooks D. Simpson July 22, 2015 / 10:31 pm

        Your first comment really doesn’t bear on the question of what people are proposing to do. Frankly, I think getting rid of Davis, Lee, and Jackson is not a good idea, but who are we to say that adding other images is a bad idea? Besides, Betty, this is not a case of outsiders making these changes. These ideas come from Georgians. Would you deny Georgians the ability to determine what they want to do at Stone Mountain?

  10. BorderRuffian July 23, 2015 / 6:41 am

    Jackson served at forts in the New York City area after the Mexican War. What part of NYC would be appropriate for a Stonewall statue? It’s long overdue.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 23, 2015 / 8:40 am

      You overlooked Lee’s tenure at Fort Hamilton. Guess your knowledge is slipping.

    • OhioGuy July 23, 2015 / 9:19 am

      That’s a really good point. Jackson wasn’t a traitor during that period, though he was a veteran of the most immoral war in U.S. history. James K. Polk even had an Episcopalian hymn written about him; he was described in that hymn as having chosen the “evil side.” Regardless, though, Jackson was still an honorable man at that point. I’ll write my older daughter who lives in Harlem and see if she’d like to chair the project. Of course, the statute will say Thomas Jackson and he’ll be wearing a period U

      • OhioGuy July 23, 2015 / 9:21 am

        For some reason my iPhone locked up before I could finish that last sentence. I was saying he’d be wearing a U.S. Army uniform.

    • bob carey July 24, 2015 / 5:03 am

      I think a good spot for a Stonewall statue would be Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, this way the spirit of Jackson will be subject to Yankee power on a regular basis. Perhaps the bleacher creatures would include him the roll call.

  11. Matt McKeon July 23, 2015 / 8:36 am

    The iconography on Stone Mountain has to be repurposed away from a dwarf imitation of Mount Rushmore to the 21st Century. And its simple: paint the mountain with the rainbow colors of the gays rights movement.

    Change the conversation:
    “Dude, those defenders of white supremacy have to go”
    “Dude, check your homophobia”
    “Dude, I don’t think these 19th century figures are icons of the gays rights movement”
    “Dude, Jeff Davis worn women’s clothes, and the guy in the little hat? His nickname was STONEWALL!”
    “Dude, you just blew my mind”

    My original idea was simply to sandblast Jeff Davis’s face, since no one likes him, and replace him with MLK, who is actually from Georgia, referenced Stone Mountain in a famous speech, and isn’t embarrassing.

    Ideas! I got a million of ’em!

  12. Chunk July 23, 2015 / 11:22 am

    What to do with Stone Mountain?
    Paint it black.

    • Brooks D. Simpson July 24, 2015 / 11:28 am

      Chastain has since explained her reasoning, as you’ll see from the update. That sheds a different light on matters, and demonstrates that she was trying to deceive people about her motives. She simply isn’t honest.

  13. Charles Lovejoy July 28, 2015 / 4:53 pm

    Growing up in the metro-Atlanta area in the 60’s, I never remember Stone Mountain being that big of deal other than someplace to go and there was a carving being carved on the side of the mountain. Things bigger than Stone Mountain going on,first grade it was the Cuban missile crisis , 2nd grade JFK assassination and the Beatles, after that was the Braves and Falcons coming to Atlanta, the space race / moon landing, and much more had peoples attention during the 60’s and early 70’s in the area. Stone Mountain wasn’t main news . I was one of the few that had more than a passing interest in Civil War history. I didn’t look at Stone Mountain as history , I was wanting to visit museums and battle fields not go watch a carving on a mountain being carved.

  14. Robert D. November 13, 2015 / 11:28 am

    I think Mr. Caseys suggestion of a “Stonewall” statue in Monument Park is a great idea. That way depending on your allegiance you can be celebrating Reggie as well. Heck, throw in Micheal, Bo, and Andrew too. At least they didn’t play for the “Damn Yankees”.

    • bob carey November 14, 2015 / 5:46 am

      When you use the term “Damn Yankees” are you referring to the baseball team that has won 27 World Series?

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