"A Blight On Our State:" Politics and Place in the Making and Remaking of Georgia's Stone Mountain

Colbert, Michelle, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Nelson, Louis, PV-Ofc of Exec VP & Provost, University of Virginia
Sewell, Jessica, AR-Planning Dept PV-Summer & Spec Acad Progs, University of Virginia
Hill Edwards, Justene, AS-History AS-History PV-Summer & Spec Acad Progs, University of Virginia

On August 15, 2017, in the wake of racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams called for the removal of the Confederate memorial carving from the edifice of Stone Mountain. Abrams’ Tweet helped reignite a debate about the future of the world’s largest Confederate memorial. But even as these conversations contended with the future of Stone Mountain, they failed to fully understand its past. The history of Stone Mountain is deeply political but it has been depoliticized by an existing literature that centers its early-twentieth-century origins but obscures the politics of its mid-twentieth-century completion and its tension with the diverse and evolving cultural landscape of the state. This thesis provides a political history of the Stone Mountain project from the mid-twentieth century to the present day. It argues that the history of Stone Mountain is intrinsically political, inseparable from the political history of the state of Georgia and city of Atlanta, and reflects the shifting cultural and racial landscapes of the Metro Atlanta region. Through this lens, it demonstrates that the state’s completion of the Stone Mountain memorial carving was not merely a continuation of the project’s earlier iterations but a deliberate effort of the state’s political elite to champion white supremacy in Georgia in the face of political and cultural change. This thesis also investigates the contested relationship between Stone Mountain and the contemporary Metro Atlanta landscape and examines how the face of the mountain has been physically and digitally reappropriated to illustrate perceptions of race, class, and popular culture. As the fate of Stone Mountain’s Confederate imagery continues to make national news, this investigation, now more than ever, is integral to understanding Stone Mountain’s political legacy and informing future interpretations at Stone Mountain Park.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Stone Mountain, Confederate Monuments, Georgia, Atlanta, Outkast, Dirty South, Confederate Memorials
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