The pro­blem with Stone Moun­tain

Le dé­bat au­tour du plus grand mo­nu­ment confé­dé­ré des États-Unis.

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito | Sommaire - KHUSHBU SHAH

Le Con­fe­de­rate Mo­nu­ment de Stone Moun­tain, en Géor­gie, est le plus grand mo­nu­ment confé­dé­ré des États-Unis. Cet im­mense bas-re­lief lo­gé sur cette mon­tagne re­pré­sente trois lea­ders des États confé­dé­rés d'Amé­rique. À l’heure où les sta­tues et mo­nu­ments à la gloire des fi­gures sé­ces­sion­nistes sus­citent de plus en plus de ré­ac­tions dans le pays, no­tam­ment de la part des mou­ve­ments an­ti-ra­cistes, les avis sur Stone Moun­tain di­vergent...

The La­ser­show Spec­ta­cu­lar (™) is a ce­le­bra­tion of brand Ame­ri­ca. Its huge 3D vi­deo pro­jec­tion (“tal­ler than the Sta­tue of Li­ber­ty!”) pulls out all the stops – de­pic­ting pa­trio­tic icons from bald eagles to Mi­ckey Mouse to to­we­ring let­ters spel­ling U-S-A, with lots of fie­ry ex­plo­sions and a rou­sing musical score. 2. Fa­mi­lies vi­si­ting the park, which is Geor­gia’s most po­pu­lar tou­rist at­trac­tion, come here to pic­nic on the grand lawn and gaze up at the show, which is pro­jec­ted di­rect­ly on to Stone Moun­tain’s Con­fe­de­rate mo­nu­ment. The show ends with the three sculp­tures of the Con­fe­de­rate lea­ders – Ge­ne­rals Ro­bert E Lee, Sto­ne­wall Jack­son and Con­fe­de­rate pre­sident Jef­fer­son Da­vis – co­ming to life and ”ri­ding off” in­to the eve­ning sky. 3. The scale of the mo­nu­ment, which was on­ly fi­ni­shed in 1972, pro­ba­bly can’t be ful­ly ap­pre­cia­ted un­til it is seen firs­thand. It’s by far the biggest me­mo­rial to the Con­fe­de­ra­cy, and at 158ft tall is the lar­gest stone car­ving of its kind in the world. It was al­so star­ted by the Ku Klux Klan. The ow­ner of the land was a Klans­man, as was the ori­gi­nal sculp­tor (who al­so crea­ted Mount Rush­more). And it sits in­side Stone Moun­tain state park, just east of down­town

At­lan­ta, on­ly a few miles from the bir­th­place of Mar­tin Lu­ther King.


4. The Stone Moun­tain car­ving is a mo­nu­ment to men who fought to de­fend sla­ve­ry and white su­pre­ma­cy. Some Geor­gia re­si­dents argue the sta­tue must be re­mo­ved, others that it is a part of his­to­ry that needs to be pro­tec­ted. Ri­chard Rose, the At­lan­ta chap­ter pre­sident of the Na­tio­nal As­so­cia­tion for the Ad­van­ce­ment of Co­lo­red People (NAACP), is firm­ly in the first camp.

5. The three men de­pic­ted by the car­ving contri­bu­ted to a war that killed thou­sands in the name of de­fen­ding sla­ve­ry, he says. And it didn’t end there. “They conti­nued the prac­tices of white su­pre­ma­cy af­ter the war,” Rose said. Stone Moun­tain, he argues, “speaks not to At­lan­ta, per se, but to the state of Geor­gia, which eve­ry year tries to pro­claim a Con­fe­de­rate His­to­ry Month”.


6. As a mo­ve­ment grows to re­move Con­fe­de­rate sym­bols across the US – in­clu­ding tea­ring down sta­tues and lo­we­ring Con­fe­de­rate flags from state fa­ci­li­ties – fresh at­ten­tion is being paid to the biggest Con­fe­de­rate mo­nu­ment of all. Sta­cey Abrams, the De­mo­cra­tic can­di­date in Geor­gia, who [just ran] a hot­ly contes­ted race to try to shift the long-time red state blue, has pre­vious­ly cri­ti­ci­sed the mo­nu­ment.

7. Af­ter the Char­lot­tes­ville vio­lence at the Unite the Right ral­ly last Au­gust, Abrams condem­ned the car­ving in a series of tweets. “Con­fe­de­rate mo­nu­ments be­long in mu­seums where we can stu­dy and re­flect on that ter­rible his­to­ry, not in places of ho­nor across our state,” she wrote. But the po­li­tics of the is­sue are dif­fi­cult – not least be­cause you can’t ea­si­ly take down a sculp­ture car­ved in­to side of a moun­tain – and more re­cent­ly Abrams has said that al­though she stands by her po­si­tion, dea­ling with the mo­nu­ment is not top of her list of prio­ri­ties.


8. In­deed, not all pro­minent black po­li­ti­cians and ac­ti­vists agree about the mo­nu­ment. Mi­chael Thur­mond is the first and on­ly Afri­can Ame­ri­can on the board of Stone Moun­tain Park, as well as the CEO of DeKalb Coun­ty, where the car­ving stands. He wants to leave it where it is.

9. Loo­king out from the park’s Me­mo­rial Hall to­wards the car­ving, the 65-year-old ve­te­ran po­li­ti­cian ar­gued that the mo­nu­ment is a “me­mo­rial to the myth of the lost cause”. The south, he says, was a “fai­led ex­pe­riment in white su­pre­ma­cy. [The car­ving] pre­sents an op­por­tu­ni­ty to teach this ge­ne­ra­tion and the next ge­ne­ra­tion how mo­ve­ments ba­sed on ra­cism, ba­sed on bias and pre­ju­dice are ul­ti­ma­te­ly de­fea­ted.” Some of the white tou­rists on a recent vi­sit agreed with Thur­mond, in­clu­ding Mar­gie Legg, 67, vi­si­ting her daugh­ter from Ma­ry­land. “What’s the point? So­meone spent a lot of time. It’s an ar­tis­tic piece,” she said.


10. Others come at the is­sue from a clo­ser pers­pec­tive. Glo­ria Brown, 78, grew up in Stone Moun­tain and still lives in a white woo­den bun­ga­low on one of the vil­lage’s hand­ful of streets. She re­calls her vi­sits as a child to Rich’s De­part­ment Store in down­town At­lan­ta, where she’d ride up and down the es­ca­la­tor to the Ma­gno­lia Room restaurant – which she wasn’t al­lo­wed to enter. Not un­til the es­ta­blish­ment de­se­gre­ga­ted in the 1960s, af­ter a sit-in that in­clu­ded King, did Brown, then in her twen­ties, step foot in­side.

11. Her mo­ther wor­ked as a sum­mer maid for James R Ve­nable, whose fa­mi­ly were key or­ga­ni­zers of the lo­cal Ku Klux Klan fac­tion; the Ve­nable fa­mi­ly ow­ned Stone Moun­tain be­fore it was bought by the state in 1958, and it was Sa­muel Ve­nable, a Klans­man and quar­ry ope­ra­tor, who dee­ded its north face to the Uni­ted Daugh­ters of the Con­fe­de­ra­cy for the ori­gi­nal car­ving.

12. So it is per­haps sur­pri­sing that she thinks the mo­nu­ment should stay. She calls it a re­min­der of her life, of her fa­mi­ly’s his­to­ry in the south, of her ex­pe­rience as an Afri­can Ame­ri­can wo­man. She says she doesn’t un­ders­tand why some pro­minent Afri­can Ame­ri­can ci­vil rights ac­ti­vists and po­li­ti­cians want to re­move it. “Good or bad, his­to­ry is his­to­ry. You can’t erase the fact of his­to­ry. Sla­ve­ry wasn’t right but you can’t go in the text­book and re­move it or take it out, ever,” she said.


Stone Moun­tain’s Con­fe­de­rate mo­nu­ment de­pic­ting Con­fe­de­rate lea­ders Sto­ne­wall Jack­son, Ro­bert E. Lee and Jef­fer­son Da­vis, in Geor­gia.

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