Georgia’s Enormous Confederate Memorial At Stone Mountain – The Controversial Robert E. Lee Stone Mountain Carving…

A Trip To Georgia’s Stone Mountain

I was working in Atlanta two years ago, and took a day to explore a local park – and with no idea what I was going to see, I ended up deep inside Georgia’s past.

Made up of more than 3,200 acres just outside Atlanta, Stone Mountain is a popular attraction with more than fifteen miles of trails and nature to explore.

The park houses a number of relics from a different era: like a “Grist Mill!”

In 1965, this century-old mill was moved to the Park from its original site near Ellijay, GA, and is currently located on Robert E. Lee Blvd. on the east side of the mountain.

Yes, ROBERT E. LEE BLVD.

A Tribute To The Confederacy!

Here is where confederate history takes over my tour. You see, the centerpiece of the park is the actual “Stone Mountain”, which you can hike a mile to the top…but it’s the side of the mountain that overwhelms your senses…

Stone Mountain is the site of a giant carving commemorating the military leaders of the Confederacy…led by General Robert E. Lee…his statues across the south have been at the center of the recent controversy in our country.

As Stone Mountain’s website notes:

Stone Mountain is “the largest high relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving, depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The entire carved surface measures three-acres, larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore.”

With all of the controversy about statues for General Lee, I was struck by this enormous carved tribute to the confederate leaders…

In the large park in front of the carving, each state of the confederacy has a small area with information about their involvement in the civil war – with plaques, photos and other items that take you back to that horrific time…

After the tragic Charleston church shooting in 2015, Stone Mountain was the subject of a political debate related to the removal of symbols of the Confederacy.

According to wikipedia, “a proposal was made to remove the Confederate carving from Stone Mountain Park. However, according to Georgia state law, no one is allowed to alter the figures carved upon the stone face. Any changes within the state park would require approval by the state legislature.”

I’m not a fan of pretending the past never happened – because an awareness of these horrific events in our past can help us make smarter choices in the future – still, it was disconcerting to see a memorial for a war that tore us apart as a nation, with imagery that continues to provoke emotions today…

There is an even more sobering exhibit at Stone Mountain…

Antebellum Plantation!

Stone Mountain also houses this replica of a southern plantation estate – here is how they describe it on their website:

“Historic Square at Stone Mountain Park is a collection of original buildings from around the State of Georgia, built between 1793 and 1875. Each structure was moved from its original site and carefully restored to preserve its authenticity and historical value.Take a self-guided tour and enjoy the sights and smells of the working cookhouse and garden.
This fascinating area also houses the most extensive collection of period furniture and decorations in the south, reflecting the diverse lifestyles of 18th and 19th century Georgia residents. “

Yes, that “diverse lifestyle” includes SLAVE CABINS.

They don’t shy away from this horrendous bit of history – these are actual slave cabins that housed the plantation workers.

This was very difficult to see – imagining how life was like that this time – it was a sobering walk through this part of our nation’s past.

This is just one example of southern towns that house confederate memorabilia…as I saw when I went to Jackson, Mississippi:

Yes, the state flag includes a portion of the confederate flag as well…

Mississippi is the last state flag to feature the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist. Supporters say it represents history.

Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. In 2001, state residents voted to keep it as is…

Many cities and towns have chosen not to use this version of the flag, and it continues to be controversial – but it’s just one example of the past you will find in Jackson – as I discovered when I visited – here is my trip to this southern town:

https://johnrieber.com/2017/03/20/jackson-mississippi-a-southern-town-with-a-segregated-civil-rights-history/

Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve never really travelled much through the south, but I read a great book about life there today:

Travel Writer Paul Theroux spent a year on the back roads of the south, and his new memoir is an insightful and incisive look at the people of the south, and how the past has influenced how they live today…read more about the book here:

https://johnrieber.com/2016/08/09/travel-the-deep-south-two-new-memoirs-capture-life-down-south-in-dixie/

I want to understand this part of our country so I can understand why people act the way they do – how the history they were immersed in can impact how they see their world.

With all of the controversy surrounding memorials for Robert E. Lee today, I remembered this trip to Stone Mountain…it’s a very sobering time for our nation…



Categories: Awards, Books / Media, documentary films, Exotic Travel, Memoirs, Politics, Travel, Travel Adventures, Travel Memoir, Uncategorized

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4 replies

  1. This is a great post John. I don’t think history should be white-washed either, but the fact that the majority of these Confederate monuments, statues, etc., were put up during the Jim Crow era, gives one pause.

  2. A topical post, John, and a subject that is currently getting a lot of coverage. I am in favour of keeping history intact, however unpalatable it may appear to the modern eye. It happened, like it or not, and whether as a reminder, or lesson, it is always valuable, in my opinion. You might be interested in this post from my other blog. It brought the most comments of any post I have written there, and some real debate too.
    https://redflagflying.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/history-is-bunk/
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • I will read it Pete. I also am NOT in favor of pretending the past didn’t exist, but these statues and “memorials” do send a wrong message, because these people were trying to tear this country apart and shouldn’t be honored in any way

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