You’ve heard of Mount Rushmore, but do you know of Stone Mountain? If you answered no, here’s a fun fact: Though they lost the Civil War, some in the American South still believe they’ve won it “on moral grounds,” an idea that foregrounds the Lost Cause, a pseudohistorical negationist myth that attempts to cast the Confederate in a strikingly noble light.
It explains a lot about the prevalence of Confederate monuments in America. This is unpacked in the powerful short documentary Monument: The Untold Story of Stone Mountain, an informed, historically rich take on the largest Confederate monument in the world produced by the Atlanta History Center and available for viewing on its website and on YouTube.
The massive high-relief sculpture on Stone Mountain depicts the three “heroes” of the Confederacy, President Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and J. Stonewall Jackson. Started in the 1910s, it wasn’t finished until 1972. Located about 15 miles east of downtown Atlanta, the monument is the size of three football fields, and is protected by Georgia state law. Stone Mountain is also where the Ku Klux Klan re-emerged in 1915, inspired by the racist film The Birth of a Nation.
One of the key speakers in the documentary is former Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes, a Democrat, who led the removal of the Confederate flag from the Georgia state flag in 2001. He was met with intense backlash. This is just one instance of the looming Confederate influence on the state.
The film ties this and many other things together, such as explaining how Confederate monuments exist to intimidate Black people and uphold racist ideologies. It also shows how proponents of Stone Mountain believe that it’s part of their “heritage,” or history with all the bad parts left out. These are just a few examples of how white supremacy uses gaslighting techniques.
The film ends at a crucial moment, questioning the future of this monument, and highlighting voices of young activists such as Genesis Reddicks of Decatur, Georgia, who are hopeful about the future and righting historical wrongs.
At times it was hard to mentally and emotionally unpack all the information in only 30 minutes. The film is divided into five compact sections, which is a lot. Stretching the film out into something a bit longer with only three parts could have solved that, but nonetheless, this is an excellent short work worth watching twice.
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