A gripping new short documentary traces Stone Mountain’s racist roots

In recent years, Confederate monuments have fallen down across the country. But there is one that lingers: Stone Mountain.

The gigantic bas-relief, depicting Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on horseback, appears on a granite outcrop about 15 miles east of downtown Atlanta. Larger than a football field, the carving was held in place by its size and location. (To remove it would probably require dynamite). It’s also enshrined in politics: Georgian law forbids “altering, removing, concealing or obscuring” the monument in any way.

Various ideas have been developed over the years to counteract or contextualize this, adding more nuance and depth to discussions about a site long considered a memorial to the Confederate dead, but whose overall history is inseparable from the Ascension of modern Ku is intertwined Klux Klan. Well, a compelling short documentary produced by the Atlanta History Center fills in some of the details surrounding this controversial site.

“Monument: The Untold Story of Stone Mountain,” which will be available on the center’s website from Thursday morning, could not be released at a better time. In November, Stone Mountain Memorial Assn., the government agency that operates the site, announced that it had contracted with an exhibit design firm, Warner Museums, to create a new “truth-clarifying” exhibit about the memorial’s history and to build .

A case contains a plaster model of a bas-relief depicting Confederate leaders on horseback.

A 1926 design model of Stone Mountain in the site museum.

(Carolina Miranda/Los Angeles Times)

An on-site museum is currently showing a historical exhibition, but ignores much of the memorial’s social context: that it was conceived in the 1910s, in the heyday of Jim Crow, and then stalled for decades, only to be looked after by a segregationist to be revived governor of Georgia during the civil rights struggles of the 1950s. Stone Mountain was also where a group of men – inspired by DW Griffith’s racist film The Birth of a Nation, which idolized the original Ku Klux Klan – climbed the mountain in November 1915 to burn a cross and proclaim the KKK to revive.

The memorial’s existing display features a single plaque about the Klan, framing it as “A Dark Chapter in Our History.” But the Klan is a lot of more than one chapter – think of it as one long-running narrative thread.

At the time of the memorial’s construction, the Stone Mountain owner allowed the Klan unrestricted access to the site for rallies and gatherings—access, which they retained until the state bought it in 1958. Omitted from the current exhibit is the fact that Helen Plane, who oversaw the Atlanta chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and helped introduce the idea of ​​a Confederate monument at Stone Mountain, had once approached the project’s original designer, Gutzon Borglum ( who later chiseled Mt. Rushmore) to encourage him to include Klansmen in the carving – an idea also inspired by The Birth of a Nation.

“Since seeing this wonderful and beautiful picture of the rebuilding of the South,” she wrote, “I have a feeling that it is thanks to the Ku Klux Klan, who saved us from Negro rule and Carpet rule, that it was on Stone.” Mountain was immortalized. Why not depict a small group of them in their nocturnal uniform approaching in the distance?

A bas-relief of Confederate leaders on horseback is carved into a massive granite outcrop visible between tree branches.

A view of the Confederate Monument at Stone Mountain in May 2022.

(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

“Monument,” skillfully directed by Kristian Weatherspoon, the center’s vice president of digital storytelling, packs all of this history into a succinct 30-minute film that lays out the history of Stone Mountain, its context, and its importance to various constituencies. The film unfolds through a series of interviews with historians and activists, as well as plenty of historical footage – some of it chilling.

Among them is Donna Baron, daughter of Roy Faulkner, the carver who saw the monument through to completion in the early 1970’s. “Sure, there’s good, bad, and ugly in every story,” she says to the camera. “We just have to continue to focus on the good and not the bad.”

But the document shows there is no way to tackle one without the other, as the real motivation behind building the memorial was not to celebrate heroism but to intimidate those fighting for civil rights while telling the story of the lost cause is advanced.

“I know a lot of people think the Confederacy and this monument represent their legacy,” says Claire Haley, who works on democracy initiatives at the history center. “But what I’d like to remind people is that we’re talking about what this memorial represents — it represents massive resistance to federally mandated integration.”

The intent of creating Confederate monuments, says Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “was to use art as a weapon in support of a false ideology.”

These sculptures served as instruments of terror — a way of showing, as one historian puts it in the documentary, that “the people who lost the war were now in charge again.”

In her 2020 memoir, Memorial Drive, poet Natasha Trethewey — whose family once suffered crossfire — wrote eloquently about what Stone Mountain meant to her black family down south. The memorial was visible in the distance from her mother’s apartment “as if to remind me what is and isn’t remembered here”.

The Atlanta History Center documentary serves to remember what has been forgotten — or perhaps more accurately, unspoken. It follows an earlier effort in 2017, when historians at the center released a 14-page report with a condensed history of Stone Mountain, delving into the social forces that led to its formation — and that still cling to it hold his place.

Monument brings this story to life in a revealing and heartbreaking half hour. And it’s not just about the past; it’s also about the future.

As Sheffield Hale, the President of the History Center, says at the beginning of the film, “Does this Confederate memorial park represent where we as Georgians want to be in the 21st century?”

The Georgians have to reckon with that. The first step: being honest about why Stone Mountain was faked and what hateful messages it continues to reinforce.

Monument: The Untold Story of Stone Mountain can be viewed Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at atlantahistorycenter.org.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2023-01-12/monument-untold-story-stone-mountain-examines-largest-confederate-monument A gripping new short documentary traces Stone Mountain’s racist roots

Sarah Ridley

USTimesPost.com is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@ustimespost.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button