DALTON – Democrat Stacey Abrams found herself on the campaign trail this week answering for an earlier call to remove the carving of three Confederate leaders from state-owned Stone Mountain near Atlanta.
A Dalton woman expressed concern during a town hall Wednesday about Abrams’ apparent focus on blasting off the “beautiful carving” from the face of Stone Mountain. The woman also inquired about Abrams’ views on the Confederate monuments that are a fixture in many downtowns across Georgia, including Dalton.
Abrams called for the removal of the carving last fall in a series of tweets shortly after a protestor was killed when a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd in Charlottesville, Va., where groups clashed over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.
At Stone Mountain, three Confederate leaders – President Jefferson Davis and Generals Lee and Stonewall Jackson – sit atop horses in the largest high relief sculpture in the world. Their likenesses are protected by state law and are so large that a sandblaster would likely be needed to erase them from the rocky monadnock, where the Ku Klux Klan was revived in the early 20th Century.
Abrams said at the time that the “visible image of Stone Mountain's edifice remains a blight on our state and should be removed.”
“I will never pretend not to believe something I believe,” Abrams said Wednesday to a packed and diverse crowd assembled at the Dalton Convention Center.
“I never once said ‘sandblast,’ but I did say that we should do something about the fact that we have this massive monument to domestic terrorism without context and without information, and I believe absolutely the state should not be paying for a monument to domestic terrorism.”
Abrams also drew a distinction between Civil War markers commemorating an historical event that occurred in Georgia and monuments glorifying the war that were erected in the decades that followed, particularly during the Jim Crow era.
The former House minority leader added that addressing the Stone Mountain carving does not top her list of priorities. Abrams is currently touting her plan to create jobs through investments in infrastructure and small business development, as well as Medicaid expansion.
“But will I ever say that Stone Mountain is a good thing, that celebrating the terrorism that was visited upon not only African-Americans but Jews in the state of Georgia is a good thing? Absolutely not. And if I was willing to say that, then you should not want me to be the next governor of Georgia,” Abrams said, prompting a standing ovation.
Abrams faces Republican Brian Kemp this November in one of the most closely watched races in the country. If elected, Abrams would become the first black woman to be elected governor in America.
Jill Nolin covers the Georgia Statehouse for The Valdosta Daily Times, CNHI's newspapers and websites.