Built Environment Analysis

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“Our mission is to sustain, enhance, and protect Stone Mountain Park and to provide enriching historical, natural, cultural, and recreational experiences for all who visit.” (StoneMountainPark.org) This is the mission statement of none other than Stone Mountain Park. Beloved by many, Stone Mountain is a huge tourist attraction located in Georgia. Tourists from all over come to visit this historical site. My goal by the end of this paper is for you to see why this park does not make everyone feel welcome, contrary to what is stated in the mission statement. On June 23, 1923, the carving began on Stone Mountain. The next year that followed, a man by the name of Gutzon Borglum, finished carving the head of Robert E. Lee. Borglum, unveiled it on his birthday, January 19,1807. The Stone Mountain Carving was completed on March 3, 1972. However, the park was officially opened on September 19, 1958. The human habitation of Stone Mountain and its surroundings date back to prehistory. The mountain was first encountered by European explorers. Its summit was said to be encircled by a rock wall. Allegedly, the wall was built by early Native American inhabitants of the area. By the end of the 20th century, the wall had completely disappeared. In the early 19th Century, the area of Stone Mountain was known as Rock Mountain. Following the founding of DeKalb County, with the county seated near Decatur in 1822, Stone Mountain was a natural recreation area for many. Young men often took their dates on horseback rides from Decatur to the mountain. Aaron Cloud, an entrepreneur built a 165 feet wooden observation tower at the summit of the mountain in 1838. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by a storm and replaced by a much smaller tower in the year of 1851. (StoneMountainPark.org)  There are quite a few points of interest at Stone Mountain, one of those being Confederate Hall.

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Confederate Hall is a museum that educates students and park guests on the geology and ecology of Stone Mountain. It also ties in the historical aspects of the area. (Wikipedia) One of the more popular attractions is the walk up trail. The Confederate building sits right next door to Stone Mountains walk up trail.

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The walk up trail is a 1.3 miles and leads straight to the top of Stone Mountain. It ascends 786 feet in elevation to a height of 1,686 ft. (Wikipedia) The trail is very steep in some parts. I’ve actually walked up the trail, and it is fun yet very strenuous. It’s also easy to trip or tumble and fall if you’re not careful. There are several different types of elevations as you go up the mountain. It is wise to take a partner alongside up the mountain for safety. During summer evenings, Stone Mountain hosts the Stone Mountain Laser Show Spectacular.

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This show is full of fireworks and a laser light display. It is a huge event held throughout the summer, and is usually a packed show. I’ve been to a show before, and it is definitely spectacular. They put on a very exciting show. Although, I have highlighted some fun facts about Stone Mountain, there are some down sides that I would like to discuss.  Stone Mountain is very controversial as it relates to racism, more specifically for African Americans. I wonder why there have been Confederate flag rallies recently allowed at Stone Mountain Park. The Confederate Flag is a flag that symbolizes the Confederate States of America.

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The Confederate flag is most commonly associated with the Civil War, the North vs the South, and the Union vs the Confederacy. A fight for freedom is one of the main issues at hand with this war that included slavery. The North opposed slavery. However, the South supported slavery during this time. Many people argue that the Confederate flag is simply an object of Southern pride. Others, such as me, feel that the flag is highly offensive and symbolic of oppression and slavery. I’m offended by the flag because of what the flag reminds me of. I feel that the flag is a symbolization of pro slavery in the South. In the Confederate States of America, slavery was allowed. African Americans were beaten, forced to pick cotton in the beating sun, forced to care for their masters’ families and children amongst other things.   African Americans were mistreated during this time. Slavery was an interruption in our history where African Americans were forced to leave what they called “home”. Some were even forced to separate from their families. Young children were abandoned at the cost of slavery. I can’t be proud of that, or see much good there. How does this reality symbolize something good for all of us in this nation? The Confederate States of America was not very welcoming for African Americans.  A lot of people wonder why African Americans get offended when they see this Confederate flag. Many African Americans feel that the flag is simply racist.  In some cases the flag has been purposely used to spark racial tension. But more importantly, changing the look of the flag does not change the meaning of the flag. I feel that those who advertise the flag are symbolizing a pro slavery in America, whether they realize that or not. Many don’t consider that slavery was allowed in the Confederate States of America not that long ago. To many the flag just symbolizes pride for the South. It’s painful to see a Confederate flag to me. When I think of all that the African American ancestors endured during that time, it evokes a very passionate disgust within me for the confederacy. In my opinion, the flag should be banned in America.  I say this because of its highly controversial background. There seems to be more negative connotations than positive ones.  I love the South. I was born and raised in DeKalb County five minutes from Decatur. When I look at the confederate flag it doesn’t remind me of beautiful the South is. I think about how it represented a pro slavery in the South. Another observation that is increasingly alarming about Stone Mountain is how Confederate flag rallies are allowed to go on in the park. These Confederate flag rallies have had some peaceful rallies, but more recently the rallies have turned violent. Just the other day, one pro-white demonstrator and eight counter-demonstrators were arrested this past weekend at Stone Mountain. The eight counter-demonstrators were with a crowd that looked as though to outnumbered by 10 to 1 of those wearing “White Lives Matter” and also waving Confederate flags. There were reports that KKK members were in attendance. (Grinberg, Sandoval)  Why are these Confederate flag rallies allowed at a “welcoming to everyone” establishment? Seeing a Confederate flag rally does not make me feel safe or welcome. It also does not make me appreciate the South more.  It was recently reported on the Channel 5 local news that a high school had to move their prom to another location because it fell on the same day as the Confederate rally. The students attending the school prom were not only African Americans but were represented from all races. The parents, students, and faculty felt that having prom on the same day posed a threat to the student’s safety. This was a very eye opening example of the fact that, there is cause for concern as it relates to the racial tension that the confederate flag represents.  I don’t think that the rallies should even be allowed at Stone Mountain. Now, it’s not just African Americans that do not feel safe at this establishment, there are others as well. Americans should feel safe at this establishment. The police don’t usually prohibit these rallies until something goes wrong. On a lighter note, one thing that makes me happy is to see unity. I like to see the human race coming together against racism and violence.

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In opposition to the pro-white Confederate flag rally participants, there were also other Caucasians out there who were protesting against their counterparts, which is very uncommon at these events. A gun was actually pulled out on a protestor of the Confederate flag rally, and the police had to calm the escalation. This type of behavior almost depicts a modern day war. The carving on Stone Mountain depicts three Confederate figures that were involved in the Civil War. Those Confederate figures are Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. The curved surface measures three-acres, which is larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore. The carving of the three men soars 400 feet above the ground. It measures 90 by 190 feet. The figures were finished with the detail of a fine painting. Eyebrows, fingers, buckles, and strands of hair are included on the carving. (StoneMountainPark.com) This carving is beloved by a lot of people, but also offensive to African Americans and many others. The Confederate soldiers remind me of a time that will forever be attached to thoughts of slavery. They fought to keep slavery. In an article I read, the NAACP were fighting to have the carving removed. A press release from the president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, called for the elimination of the confederate carving. He called it a “glorification of white supremacy.” He stated, “It is time for Georgia and other Southern states to end the glorification of slavery and white supremacy paid for and maintained with the taxes of all its citizens.” (Ng) I believe he couldn’t have said it any better. The President of the Atlanta chapter feels that the art work is also inappropriate because none of the Confederate leaders depicted hails from Georgia. Meaning, none of the soldiers depicted on the carving were even from Georgia. In my opinion, this supports my idea that Stone Mountain and the flag represents an ambiguous interpretation. It represents the pride of all of the confederate leaders while at the same time reminds others of an oppressed time under the confederate leaders.   It would be nice to see the carving be replaced with a carving of the U.S. flag, a united America. The president says that the Confederate carvings could be sandblasted off or someone can remove a slab, and it should be sold to the highest bidder. Stone Mountain Park is said to be welcoming for everyone, but for many it serves as a trophy of hurt and pain. I really hope that the carving is removed or at least both sides of history be represented when the story is told. The Confederate flag rallies have sparked some dangerous situations lately and I am sure they will eventually become a heavy topic for the community. Racism has come a long way, and we are moving forward. Stone Mountain can be used as an educational tool that encompasses opposing views.  Stone Mountain is part of our history and there will always be varying views about the meaning and symbolism of Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is a place where many families and friends of all races have been observed enjoying peaceful fellowship. My hope is that one day Stone Mountain will acknowledge the controversial history and make it part of the multi-cultural educational experience that guests are exposed to. Facts do not cease to exist just because they are not acknowledged.

Works Cited

“Stone Mountain.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

 

“Mission and Vision.” Stone Mountain Memorial Association. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

 

“Confederate Memorial Carving.” – Stone Mountain Park. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Grinberg, Emanuella, and Sandoval, Polo. “‘Pro-white,’ Anti-KKK Groups Face off in Ga.” CNN. Cable News Network. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

 

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