Pressure to take down monuments honoring slain Confederate soldiers and the generals who led them didn’t start with Charlottesville. But the deadly violence that rocked the Virginia college town a year ago gave the issue an explosive momentum.
Confederate monuments at public parks, county courthouses and college campuses fell almost daily for weeks after a speeding car killed a woman and injured dozens in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017. The vehicle plowed into a crowd protesting a gathering of white supremacists whose stated goal was to protect a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.
At least 30 Confederate monuments have been uprooted in the year since the Charlottesville clashes, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Groups including the Sons of Confederate Veterans complain America is purging history. Others say the monuments romanticize the Confederacy and downplay its defense of slavery and racism.
Many more Confederate monuments remain standing. Seven southern states have laws protecting them. Georgia has one protecting Stone Mountain – the Confederate Rushmore.
Carved into a mountainside, the towering Confederate figures of Stone Mountain have shown a rock-solid resistance to the wave of toppling Southern monuments.
The giant sculpture of Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson has long made Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta one of Georgia’s top tourist attractions. After the bloodshed in Charlottesville, the Democrat running to become the state’s next governor said it’s “a blight on our state and should be removed.”
Stacey Abrams would be the first black woman elected governor of a U.S. state if she wins in November.
Demolishing the granite monument would be tough, and not just because of its imposing scale. Stone Mountain is protected by its own state law that mandates the carving “be preserved and protected for all time.”
Confronted about her criticism of Stone Mountain at a recent event, Abrams said the sculpture was created “to terrify African Americans.” But she also hedged on whether it should be destroyed.
“I never once said sandblast, but I did say that we should do something about the fact that we have this massive monument to domestic terrorism without context and without information,” Abrams said. “And I believe absolutely the state should not be paying for a monument to domestic terrorism.”