Stone Mountain Fantasy

In reviewing the book, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration by Thomas J. Brown, I became very intrigued with the preservation of Confederate culture in the form of monuments. This led my curiosity to look for more images of Confederate monuments that I would consider being grand in scale. I performed a simple Google search on “Huge Confederate Monument” and it resulted in me finding an image of Stone Mountain, Georgia. From here I decided to perform a search on “Stone Mountain, Georgia” and found the website for Stone Mountain Park.

Stone Mountain – Georgia

Once on the Stone Mountain Park website, I was shocked to find out that this Confederate monument was not just the largest bas-relief in the World that I had come to know, but had now become a twisted version of Disneyland meets the Ku Klux Klan. The website states, “Serious fun. Endless adventure. It’s all waiting for you at Georgia’s #1 attraction. Just 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta and home to the world’s largest piece of exposed granite, this natural wonderland offers 3,200 acres of excitement for every member of the family. A mountain of memories awaits you.* I was shocked because I had just recently read that “Thirty-five-year-old William Simmons, an organizer and insurance salesman for a fraternal society, linked this initiative to the local excitement over director D. W. Griffiths’ enormously influential film Birth of a Nation (1915), in which the rise of the Ku Klux Klan enabled ex-Confederates to regain control of the South and effect a sectional reconciliation cemented by white supremacism. On Thanksgiving night in 1915, Simmons led sixteen men, including the owner of Stone Mountain, to the crest of the monolith to reestablish the Ku Klux Klan by the light of a burning cross. Stone Mountain thereby became sacred ground to the Klan at the same time that Borglum’s project benefited from the national veneration of Lee.”** And now here I was browsing at a website that was promoting this KKK holy land as a theme park to the masses.

KKK member in similar pose as Mickey in image below.

Mickey Mouse just needs needs to bleach his apparel.

 
I immediately began to wonder, if the people who had developed this theme park and the accompanying website had really believed that it was fun for the whole family? And if so, what families? White families, I would have to guess. Because I have a hard time believing that a black family would have the same wonderful experience, given the sites true history. This I feel, even with all of the additional attractions that have been added to Stone Mountain Park, such as the Summit Skyride, Sky Hike, Yogi Bear 4-D Adventure at the 4-D Theatre, Geyser Towers, and the self touted Atlanta tradition of the Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision.***
 
Oddly, the website didn’t seem to have any historic information about what the site actually is, an extravagant monument that was built to honor the memory of the Confederacy and their ideals. In a twist of irony, it did however claim to have the best Fourth of July fireworks display in all of Atlanta.****But then again, they did refrain from the use the term Independence Day. 
 
In closure, I believe that all of the above mentioned attractions that have been added over the years to Stone Mountain were actually added to distract from the sites true and disturbing history and that it is just another example of a Lost Cause fantasy.      
 
 

*Stone Mountain Park, “Things to Do”

http://www.stonemountainpark.com/attractions-shows/attractions.aspx (accessed June 21, 2012)

** Thomas J. Brown, The Public Art of Civil War Commemoration: A Brief History with Documents (Boston:Bedford /St. Martin’s, 2004) 102. 

***Stone Mountain Park, “Things to Do”

http://www.stonemountainpark.com/attractions-shows/attractions.aspx (accessed June 21, 2012)

****Stone Mountain Park, “Festivals and Events”

http://festivals.stonemountainpark.com/mini-section/default.aspx?id=37 (accessed June 21, 2012)

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11 comments
  1. charlesanselmo said:

    This is a very interesting read. I was aware of Stone Mountain before your article, I remember seeing the engraving in an article or something. I did not know the history behind the park, however. It does make me wonder if any African-Americans have visited it. I read online that visitors from around the world go there to enjoy the natural beauty of the park. One has to wonder how many of those international visitors are ignorant of who Robert E. Lee, “Stonewall” Jackson, and Jefferson Davis are.

  2. Amanda Hlavacek said:

    I had never heard anything about Stone Mountain until we did the reading for class, but your article made me aware of things that I never even considered! It’s scary to think that the additional “attractions” added may hide the history behind it. Do you know if there are still any KKK links to the site now? How do you feel about turning such sites into “Disney attractions”? It bothers me to think that such sites would take on a theme park persona.

    • jmmblog said:

      I can’t say that I know of any official links with the organization, but one would have to assume that this site ranks high on their list of spots of whereto go to for vacation.

      I have mixed feelings about your question regarding theme parks. I don’t think that wars should be used as theme for a theme park. But if it was a theme park that used family oriented history within its theme it could be a fun way to educate people.

      And as for Stone Mountain and other Confederate sites, I believe it should have stayed as a historical park not a theme park

      • Amanda Hlavacek said:

        I completely agree with you that it, and other sites should remain historical parks. Regarding the theme park part…I can’t help but have some trepidation when thinking about a place like Shiloh, Appomattox, or Bull Run with rides etc. I think my biggest problem would be that it would detract from what took place there. Do you think it could be possible to create something that would have the best of both: the history as well as a fun way to learn? I don’t believe that history should be boring, otherwise people wouldn’t want to study it.

  3. drobnicker said:

    Until reading Horwitzs’ book about Stone Mountain, I never knew it existed. I had no idea how large it was! The photograph helps to understand the attraction and the fact that the sculptor Gutzon Borglum created Mt. Rushmore as well. With such an enormous space he could have sculpted the Northen generals as well, obviously this idea was concieved by a UDC member who actually OWNED the mountain! I also read that other scluptors worked on the mountain and it was completed in 1973. To me it doesn’t look complete but needs the other side of the story, but I honestly doubt that would ever happen.I agree it should not have been made into a theme park, but Atlanta needed the economic boost, and sold out. Yet it remains a one-sided story.

  4. magaliq said:

    Looking at the photo of Stone Mountain, I had no idea it was so “monumental!” What a wonderful looking natural monument that, most probably, most visitors are unaware of its meaning. Just as other comments, I began to wonder if there are any areas like that around here. How many public areas have a hidden meaning behind them? As I stated in my blog, I am all for using a historical site to promote tourism, but it does make me pause when it has a hidden agenda.

  5. bktitus17 said:

    It is somewhat ironic (not really) that I found the same conclusions in my post in terms of trying to hide real meanings. The UDC and the SCV both disregard the true history with all of its components on their websites and their efforts. I always end up asking myself the same question. Do they have a right to do this? Do the leaders of Stone Mountain and the tourist sites around it have a right to tweak history and ignore certain parts of it in order to enhance their agenda? I really don’t know the answer. I want to say no they don’t have a right to do that, but is that not just another Civil War argument of state and individual’s rights?

    I also wonder why do this. I mean, would it not be more beneficial to everyone involved if there was a complete history? If the South really wanted to be bias, why not do it in a more educated way. For instance, if they wanted to argue that the Confederacy was right in their decision to succeed based on states’ rights, they could include that in part because of slavery just for the mere economic argument. It made sense that the South did not want to pay average workers to work on their farms. That is not a complete picture of history (given that racism and white supremacy factored in as well), but it is at least a start and not completely ignorant of African Americans.

    Furthermore, what is this still doing to the younger generations of today? Oh yeah, let’s go to Stone Mountain and learn about Confederate leaders who so bravely fought for states’ rights and the Confederacy. Let’s not learn about the African Americans they enslaved or anything else that may be actually teaching them something.

  6. jadams08 said:

    Wow, interesting post. I know nothing about Stone Mountain and so the information you wrote about really makes me wonder not only about that carving but maybe others as well. It’s kind of like we discussed in class about the UDC having a hidden political agenda and how monuments were just a facade. How can we ever be sure what meaning is behind a monument or memorial site because it seems the more you learn about things, the more hidden meanings therre are which make me question everything. Stone Mountain in particualr is sad that the KKK did partake in demeaning the land and site so that it probably does have a white superior blessing to it. I highly doubt people, white and blacks, know the historical meaning behind it and so that leads into people really learning and being excited about history.

  7. Stone Mountain Fantasy

    Amazing what one will discover when we dig deep enough on a topic of interest. I never would have thought that a seemingly family friendly theme park would have connections to the KKK and that for some us, unfamiliar with the South would unknowingly patronize its entertainment. Your description of Stone Mountain Park as “Disneyland meets the Ku Klux Klan” says it all. The fact that this park is considered Georgia’s #1 attraction makes me wonder (as you did), is this an all white family summer destination, considering its Confederate theme? As I mentioned in class (and being from the West) I have very little knowledge about Confederate culture, except of course, what one reads and sees on the media. It appears to me from all the readings we have done in class so far, that the “Confederate religion” and its idea of recapturing the white supremacy ideology is so deep rooted for many southerners, that I doubt this mindset would ever fade away any time soon and for the person who believes that the KKK movement would some day go away…is living in “Disneyland.”

  8. 10ectim said:

    Ok, I have been to Stone Mountain but it was MANY years ago. The attraction is actually the natural beauty of the spot. Stone Mountain is not a “historical site” anymore than Mt. Rushmore is. The memorial depicts southern heroes that were admired in Georgia. The fact that the KKK met there does not make it a KKK site anymore than the Gay Community Day celebrated at Disney World (who does not official sponsor it) makes the Magic Kingdom a homosexual site. Families go there to enjoy the outdoors, escape the city of Atlanta, and, yes, some come to honor those memorialized. Atlanta has a very large African American population and I would think they too enjoy this beautiful location. Does the monument offend some? I would certainly think so. But then again, does Mt. Rushmore offend Native Americans of that area? I would certainly think so.

    • Kristen Epps said:

      But is it marketed (locally) as a historic site? That’s a question I had. Does it appear, for instance, on MapQuest under “historic attractions”?

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