Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial
On May 9, 1970, an estimated ten thousand visitors attended the dedication ceremony of the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial. The carving commemorates the South’s heroes on horseback during the “War Between the States”: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis. The Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial is the largest memorialization piece of the Lost Cause narrative in the New South; when construction began in 1923, the monument was to be a symbolic, white supremacist retaliation to Reconstruction efforts and advancing freedoms and rights of African Americans. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) were the motivating power behind many of these Lost Cause commemoration projects, and the very existence of the Confederate carving on Stone Mountain is due to the vision of Caroline Helen Jemison Plane of the UDC Atlanta Chapter as well as fundraising efforts by the entire chapter throughout the early 20th century. In addition to the economic contributions of the UDC, there were significant design and political contributions (as well as the land itself) from members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK); the site is also the birthplace of the 1915 KKK revival by Minister William J. Simmons. Despite its problematic past, the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial is still honored today as the greatest and largest commemorator of the Southern lives lost during the Civil War. The intentions behind its creation, however, symbolize the institutionalized desire for white supremacy through an erroneous narrative memorializing those who fought to dehumanize African Americans. The fate of the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial has been a highly controversial debate amongst scholars and Georgia citizens, particularly after the traumatic events in Charlottesville, Virginia. This entry includes background information about the carving as well as primary and secondary sources, videos, and images of the carving.
Backstory and Context
Three sculptors worked on the carving and they were Gutzon Borglum, Augustus Lukeman, and Walker Kirkland Hancock of Gloucester. Borglum worked on before he finally gave up dealing with the administration over the project and went to work on Mount Rushmore. Lukeman could not finish it because of the lack of funding. After 36 years passed, Hancock was appointed as the sculptor and was able to finish.
Some historians speculate that the reason for the interests into Stone Mountain was to remind people of white supremacy. With the rising tide of African American activism in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision there was many white southerners who wanted to fire up against the nation again. The State of Georgia purchased Stone Mountain and made it a state park. The governor established the Stone Mountain Memorial Association which came to the conclusion of just having President Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson.
Stone Mountain is open year-round, but attraction hours vary by season. There are several different activities that can be done around Stone Mountain. There are lots of trails for hiking and some bike paths. There is also a scenic train ride that goes around the mountain. If hiking is not an option then you can take the cable cars up to the top of the mountain and get a closer view at the carving. There is also a laser light show at the end of the day that features a fireworks finale.