Image, illusion and reality: What’s wrong with the Confederate flag and carving on Stone Mountain?

Stone Mountain Georgia
Photo credit: Ritu Manoj Jethani /

Every time we recite the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance, the sound of liberty and justice rings throughout the land. This cause is a work in progress to establish a more perfect Union.  So, what do the Confederate flag and the Stone Mountain carving have to do with liberty and justice?

The question stems from the principle of states’ rights and Union rights. The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the freed slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories in order to establish an indivisible Union under God with liberty and justice for all. Hence, it is contradictory to the pledge that we so faithfully recite every morning in schools: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It is not right for children to grow up and observe that the Confederate flag and the Confederate carving on Stone Mountain still exist in breach of the pledge to the union flag.

The advocates of the legacy of the Confederate flag and carving on Stone Mountain feel that it is their right to display these symbols of dominance over the weak on public property. It raises the issue that such people (advocates) while attempting to recover past glory are insensitive and insincere when saying the pledge of allegiance to the union flag that guarantees liberty and justice for all.

For a perfect union, we need to recognize the history of all the people, since the history of the United States, Georgia and Stone Mountain did not start with the Civil War, or the KKK.  Although the Union won the Civil War battle, its purpose was not to defeat and conquer the South but for its people to realize their full potential as humans with supreme conscience when contributing to an indivisible union with liberty and justice for all. The continued display of the Confederate flag and other symbols after the South’s acceptance of the principle of the Union, as stated in the pledge, represents non-acceptance, defiance and passive aggression against other social groups in the Union and severely restricts the growth and development of our nation’s conscience as a safe harbor for liberty and justice for all. The problem with these images (Confederate flag and carving on Stone Mountain) is that they do not represent all the people who lived in the South and is not a true reflection of the Civil War that included Indians, African Americans, women and others, and, consequently, signals to the omitted that they are not truly free.

The advocates of such symbols need to understand that there was no major Civil War battle at Stone Mountain. There is no one buried at Stone Mountain that was involved in the Civil War. None of the men carved on the side of Stone Mountain were from Georgia. The bloodiest parts of the Civil War battles were not in Georgia. The carving does not reflect the true representation of the people involved in the Civil War. Further, the South physically lost the Civil War against the Union, and hence the right to advocate and display (on public property) the remnants of dominance over people of color.

Stone Mountain has been around for at least 100,000 years, and Georgia became a state in 1732. The Confederate carving and flag have been around for less than 60 years. The Cherokee and Creeks Indians were the first occupants in Georgia before the Europeans settled the territory and President Andrew Jackson during the Trail of Tears, a seminal event in American history, had the Indians forcibly removed.  Later, President Andrew Johnson, who served as Lincoln’s Vice-President, became president after President Lincoln was assassinated.  President Johnson did not honor the reconstruction plan, and, himself a Southerner, also did not honor the forty acres and mule promised to the African Americans. The South’s raising of the Confederate flag and the carvings on Stone Mountain is a constant reminder to the young ones being schooled in the pledge that not only historically were they denied rights in the past but that they are not yet free in this imperfect union.

How did we get to display only white Americans carved on Stone Mountain, with a Confederate flag that was never a state flag, but a battle flag for the Virginia and Tennessee armies? The Southern Cross was not added to the Georgia flag until 1956, and the carving was not completed until 1970. Are we being led to believe that the carvings of white Americans and the Confederate flag represent the Southern heritage, instead of segregation, bondage and unequal justice? The existence of the Confederate’s carving and the flag represents a short time period in the long history of this nation and should not represent a legacy or heritage of all the people.  These symbols were made prominent years after the Civil War. Their prominence represents both defiance and a challenge to the concept of the Union flag that celebrates indivisibility with and justice for all. It should be observed that the South’s rich legacy was not born of only white Americans.  The land in which Stone Mountain lies, and the history of it did not start with the white Americans. If one is to be fair and objective, both the Union and Confederate South have a lot of history to get right.

Some white Americans attempted to annihilate the existence of Native Americans and enslave a people because of their race.  The legacy of the KKK and the Confederacy’s version of the story of the South do not reflect the true reality of the history. The true history of the people of Georgia included all the people; Native Americans, European Americans, African Americans, and women.  But none of them are represented in the carving on Stone Mountain.  Unless the Confederate carving is changed to reflect the true legacy of Georgia history, then it should be removed.  It is not acceptable to allow a misrepresentation of history to be prominently displayed on public land.

Today, 150 years later, the story, and symbols of racist supremacy still demonstrate with symbols that contradict our pledge to the union flag that guarantees liberty and justice for all. There is a need for all Americans to be sensitive to the basic needs of all to be free of the symbols of oppression and injustice. All of us need to understand and agree that the flag of the Confederates stands for supremacy of some people that not only reminds others of past injustices to them, but threatens the growth and development of the moral conscience of the union to promote freedom of all. This is evidenced in the poverty in the inner cities, and police brutality resulting from their fear of the poor.. It is in direct conflict with the principle that people from all social backgrounds (social class, gender, and ethnicity, and disabilities) want to be represented in all walks of life: education, sports, media, politics, military, music, Oscars, and the boardrooms, etc. Who should be included on Stone Mountain? The answer should be, Native Americans, African Americans, Women, Sherman, Grant, and McCullum.

Finally, the question I have for our politicians and state representatives and my fellow citizens is: would we allow King George III, the King of England, at the time of the American Revolutionary War, Hitler of Germany, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, or Osama bin Laden to be carved on Stone Mountain or their flags to be flown in the United States?

-ed williams

Ed Williams serves as chair of the Concerned Citizens For Effective Government.

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