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New Film Purports To Show How 'Georgia Racists' Created Confederate Myth At Stone Mountain
December 11, 2017

Still images from film "Graven Image," courtesy Sierra Pettengill & Field of Vision. Larger images below.

LARGER IMAGES OF ABOVE. Still images from film "Graven Image," courtesy Sierra Pettengill & Field of Vision. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Chronicle staff

(NATIONAL) -- "Graven Image," a new short film by Sierra Pettengill and produced by Field of Vision, is an interesting glimpse into America's sordid past that few school kids in America learn about.

Ask the average American what is Stone Mountain down in Georgia and you might get a blank stare or a comment such as, "Ain't that some kinda amusement park down there sorta like like Six Flags?"

Nope, not even close. It's not an amusement park and certainly not amusing. Stone Mountain, a huge quartz monzonite dome standing 1,686 feet tall above surrounding terrain and which dates back 350 million years to its underground hot magma creation, is now the site of Stone Mountain Park near Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Stone Mountain (the big rock dome, not the park or town) was once owned by two rock-quarry men named the Venable Brothers, both interesting characters, and was the site of the founding of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915. It was purchased by the State of Georgia in 1958.

That mountain is also known for for it's huge carving in the rock on its north face -- the largest bas-relief in the world - that depicts the figures of three well known traitors to their country: Civil War Confederate soldiers Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

They are not often called that word, traitors, but that is exactly what they were. They took up arms against their own nation, their own government in order to preserve a quaint, southern way of life called slavery.

If Davis, Lee and Jackson were around today to try that same dance number, they'd all get the death penalty most likely. Traitors, all of them.

But there are lots of folks today who see these traitors as heroes. Or at the very least, some not-so-bad misunderstood guys who were just trying to do "the right thing" for their dear (white) southern brothers and sisters.

Which brings us to the fascinating and somewhat haunting short film mentioned above.

It's featured in a new report by Shaun King over at The Intercept who says this new film tells the real story of Stone Mountain that few people know.

Some items from King's report:

......."In “Graven Image,” we get the very modern story of the desecration of Stone Mountain. Relying on haunting archival footage, the film tells the story of how the Confederate monument came to be made out of a giant piece of rock in Georgia."

.......In 1915 that, "Mountain became the birthplace for the modern movement of the Ku Klux Klan...insecure white men in the Deep South made a natural wonder into something truly ugly. We can thank Sam Venable for that. A lifelong bigot, he bought Stone Mountain...in 1887....as much as they were in the rock business, the Venable brothers were in the bigotry business — playing a central role in the early expansion of the KKK and even granting the violent white supremacist organization an easement that existed in perpetuity for them to host their local, regional, and national gatherings there."

......."In 1916, a year after the KKK hosted a cross burning on Stone Mountain to announce their resurgence, plans moved forward to grossly deface the dome with a gargantuan 1.57-acre wide carving honoring the Confederacy. While it is true that many horrible men sustained and advanced systemic racism in the United States, the central roles played by many white women in advancing Jim Crow are drastically under-told. In “Graven Image,” however, the central role of women in making the mountain a monument for bigots is not overlooked. Pettengill shows us these white women in archival footage, seated in lace dresses, sewing a Confederate flag."

King notes that it was Caroline Helen Jemison Plane, the president of the Atlanta chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), who convinced the owners of Stone Mountain to give the UDC access to it. The UDC then formed the Stone Mountain Confederate Monumental Association with a vision for the mountain of featuring (in the carving on the mountain) the Ku Klux Klan right alongside the three American traitors (aka, Confederate generals).

And from 1916 "until the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the carving proceeded in fits and starts, always with the foundational support of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. And what never stopped was the usage of the mountain as a gathering ground for racists."

You can view the film and read King's full report right here .



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