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Monuments and Interpretive Sign Damaged by Vandals

O n the nights of May 28, May 31, June 5, and June 6 unknown individuals used paint to vandalize the Lion of Atlanta statue, the Confederate Obelisk, several headstones, and one of the interpretive panels in the Confederate Burial Grounds.

Drawing of the Confederate Obelisk and Confederate Memorial Day gathering (from Frank Leslie’s ‘Illustrated’ newspaper May 1881)

The Lion of Atlanta, which was dedicated in 1894, is listed as an important piece of funerary art by the Smithsonian Institution. It marks the final resting place of more than 3,000 unknown Confederate soldiers. The 65-foot tall Confederate Obelisk was erected in 1870 by the Atlanta Ladies Memorial Association. Both of these monuments are owned and under the care of the City of Atlanta.

Today, these monuments create opportunities for us, both as individuals and as a community, to acknowledge injustices of the past and to more inclusively address how our collective history shapes both our present and our future. Both the Confederate Obelisk and the Lion of Atlanta memorialize Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War; they also became gathering places for Confederate Memorial Day celebrations. These celebrations, and the individuals who fought to vindicate the Confederacy, perpetuated the Lost Cause ideology—a distorted interpretation of the Civil War. The Lost Cause ignores slavery as the primary cause of the Civil War and encourages a racial hierarchy where African Americans would be subservient to white people. The Lost Cause remains a powerful influence in the United States.

Installation of one of three interpretive panels in the Confederate Burial Grounds

In August 2019, Historic Oakland Foundation installed interpretive panels in the Confederate Memorial Grounds. These contextual markers provide information about the monuments, the motivations behind their construction, and their social impact on the past and present. The historical panels address the Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War and acknowledge the struggles of African Americans who experienced and fought against slavery and segregation.

Historic Oakland Foundation does not condone destructive actions and remains committed to empathy, nonviolence, and positive dialogue. The Foundation will continue to work with the City of Atlanta to install cameras, lighting, and other means of protecting historic artifacts in addition to current security guards as a part of ensuring that everyone, and every artifact, remains safe at this beautiful and historic location. Historic Oakland Foundation seeks to provide opportunities for discussion about the past and how it shapes the present and future.

Related: Read our Statement of Support.

Photo credit, Lion of Atlanta: Ren Davis

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