Jan 11, 2023 - News

New documentary explores Stone Mountain's history

A photo of a large carving on the side of a stone mountain of Confederates riding horses

Photo: AP/John Bazemore

The Atlanta History Center Wednesday night will premiere its first-ever foray into documentary filmmaking with a movie about Stone Mountain and the state park’s place in an ever-evolving metro Atlanta.

Why it matters: Stone Mountain is one of Georgia’s most prominent and protected tributes to the Confederacy, yet relatively few people know its origin story and dubious connection to the Civil War. No battles took place there.

Catch up quick: In the early 1900s, Confederate sympathizers saw the exposed rock face of Stone Mountain, then privately owned, as a suitable location for a monument. In 1915, hooded men climbed to the summit and re-formed the Ku Klux Klan.

  • Activists, politicians and members of the public have long called for changes to the park, focusing mostly on the famous 90-foot-tall carving of Confederate figures like Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

Yes, but: State law, however, prohibits any changes to the carving.

What they're saying: "Before you can deal with anything or change anything or try to change anything, you'd have to be able to have a conversation about it," Sheffield Hale, the center's president and CEO, told Axios. "And right now, there are so many people that do not recognize the history."

Details: The film includes interviews with former Gov. Roy Barnes, activist Genesis Reddicks and Donna Barron, the daughter of the man who carved the mountain.

Of note: Hale was surprised to learn that the carving wasn't some artifact from the turn of the century. Its completion in 1972 was the fulfillment of segregationist Gov. Marvin Griffin's campaign promise to buy the land and finish the sculpture after Brown v. Board of Education.

Zoom out: Produced by Kristian Weatherspoon, the documentary is part of the AHC’s digital strategy to woo new audiences and keep existing supporters engaged.

  • "We've got the information, we've got the facts, the documents," Hale said. "We got the receipts. So we need to take advantage of that and get them out. We’re not just sitting around guarding rare books, right? We want the information to be useful."

What's next: The documentary goes live on the AHC website and YouTube Thursday.

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