Ten days ago I wrote about the rebirth of the KKK, which took place on top of Stone Mountain on Thanksgiving Day in 1915. The very next year, the owners of the mountain deeded its north face to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Soon plans were underway to carve an impressive Confederate monument into that side of the massive mountain.
A magnificent carving
The Stone Mountain Monumental Association was formed in 1916 and soon designated Gutzon Borglum, a member of the KKK, as the carving sculptor of the envisioned memorial.
However, after years of work on Stone Mountain, in 1925 Borglum left the project because of a dispute with the Association. Two years later he began carving Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, continuing that work until his death in 1941.
Another sculptor was employed for Stone Mountain, but work was suspended in 1928. Thirty years later the state of Georgia purchased the mountain and work on the monument was once again resumed in 1964.
The dedication ceremony for the mostly-finished Confederate Memorial Carving was held in May 1970 and the finishing touches were finally completed in 1972.
As you see in the picture, three Confederate heroes--Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson on their horses--are magnificently depicted in the sculpture.
A malevolent shooting
As is widely known and sadly remembered, about a year and a half ago Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white man shot and killed nine people, including the senior pastor, at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
After it became evident that Roof was a white supremacist and pictures of him with the Confederate flag were made public, there began to be calls for that flag to be removed from the South Carolina Statehouse.
On July 9, 2015, Gov. Nikki Haley, who may be the next U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., signed the bill to remove the Confederate flag. She then approvingly watched it being lowered the following day.
In response to the Charleston shooting, however, some anti-racists, especially the NAACP of Georgia, called for a much more dramatic counter-measure: sandblasting the Confederate Memorial off Stone Mountain. (See this news story.)
An imperative defacing?
What is a fitting response to the proposal to deface Stone Mountain?
On the one hand, as indicated above, the carving on Stone Mountain is magnificent. It is a work of art. It honors three important men in the history of the Southern states. Destroying such a monument might be seen by some as equivalent to ISIS deliberately destroying the cultural heritage of Iraq and Syria—such as is summarized here.
On the other hand, the men depicted in the monument were leaders in a war to preserve slavery. That horrendous war took the lives of more than 620,000 combatants—at least 360,000 in the Union and 260,000 in the Confederacy. An unspeakable tragedy!
It is men and women, not stone monuments and skillful sculptures, that are sacred and of inestimable worth. So why should men who were so central in causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings continue to be glorified by the preservation of one splendid work of art?
True, destroying the Confederate Memorial Carving will not restore the precious lives those whose were killed in the Civil War.
Think, though, what defacing such a magnificent work of art would say: war and slavery are evils and the primary leaders in the vile war to preserve slavery will no longer be honored!
LINK TO A NOTEWORTHY ARTICLE
Here is the link to “On Cross Burnings and Stone Mountain,” a 2014 blog article (with pictures) by Civil War historian Brooks D. Simpson.