This has been a topic of controversy around here since the Charleston shootings - the effort to get monuments taken down was spear-headed by our Mayor, Mitch Landrieu. A lot of hand-wringing has been done about “how about dealing with violent crimes” or something, but of course, as we all know, you can care about more than one thing at a time. Furthermore, a private and anonymous donor is covering the cost of taking the monuments down, so there is really not much argument for allocation of city resources here.
Another argument against this is, “what do you take away next?” because some of our traditions and so much of our culture is rooted in Louisiana’s racist past. So many streets named after racists. So much cover-up of historical slave auction sites (great episode of a local NPR segment about this stuff here).“What’s next?” is a valid question, but not a valid argument against removing monuments. There is also such fear we are erasing the past by not putting Confederate heroes on literal pedestals; we only erase the past if we literally erase the past.
Let’s learn about the monuments that people are so up in arms about removing (to the point that a federal lawsuit has been filed):
Top Left: Robert E. Lee (in the creatively named Lee Circle)
Robert E. Lee was hailed as an anti-slavery Confederate hero (he was charming, good-looking, and skilled in military strategy. Of course, we know what a Confederate hero really is. People like to take this excerpt out of a letter to his wife as evidence that he was opposed to slavery (therefore making the argument the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery). Here is what they are reading:
“In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country.”
That seems pretty clear huh? Slavery is terrible and there is no way around that. Oh but wait, he keeps on:
“I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.”
Ah, so slavery was a necessary evil to save Africans from themselves. It’s God’s will! We’ve heard it before.
Aside from anything Lee may or may not have said, it really does not matter as he led the Confederate army - an entire army fighting for the protection of this “evil” institution.
Quotes from Smithsonian Magazine.
Top Right: P.G.T. Beauregard (City Park)
Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard is not typically a topic of controversy, because he was simply a prominent general in the Civil War. He was a civil engineer by trade and rose to prominence during the Mexican-American War. In the Civil War, his men fought in more battles than any other of the Confederate generals’. It seems that his career fizzled out due to insubordination and ego issues. (information from Britannica.com).
Bottom Left: Monument at Liberty Place (French Quarter)
What’s Liberty Place, you ask? Just the site of the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place, where the Crescent City White League rebelled against the Reconstruction-era local government put in place by the federal government, which they viewed as illegal. The rebels held the state house (then located in New Orleans) for three days, fighting against state militia and local police. The arrival of federal troops ended the battle.
In 1891, the city government erected a monument as tribute to the dead members of the White League from this heroic effort (barf). In 1932, an inscription was added to the monument:
“McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored). United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.”
they quickly had it removed waited 42 years and then put an updated plaque just under it in 1974:
“Although the ‘Battle of Liberty Place’ and this monument are important parts of New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans.”
In 1993, City Council ordered it moved to an indoor museum. Instead, it was moved to a “less prominent” (still prominent) location in the French Quarter.
In 2004, David Duke (Louisiana’s most prominent shit sandwich) staged a White Supremacist rally near the monument. Luckily, it is frequently vandalized.
Bottom Right: Jefferson Davis (conveniently located on Jefferson Davis Parkway)
I mean, this guy was the president of the Confederacy - you know, the failed nation whose main objective was enslaving minorities? That should be enough to stop worshiping him. I’ll just give some choice quotes (from Confederate Past Present) on what a slavery-loving piece of trash he was:
Had these Africans been a cruelly oppressed people, relentlessly struggling to be freed from their bonds, would their masters have dared to leave them, as was done, and would they have remained as they did, continuing their usual duties, or could the proclamation of emancipation have been put on the plea of a military necessity, if the fact had been that the negroes were forced to serve, and desired only an opportunity to rise against their masters?
... They see that the slaves in their present condition in the South are comfortable and happy; they see them advancing in intelligence; they see the kindest relations existing between them and their masters; they see them provided for in age and sickness, in infancy and in disability; they see them in useful employment, restrained from the vicious indulgences to which their inferior nature inclines them; they see our penitentiaries never filled, and our poor-houses usually empty. let them turn to the other hand, and they see the same race in a state of freedom in the North; but instead of the comfort and kindness they receive at the South, instead of being happy and useful, they are, with few exceptions, miserable, degraded, filling the penitentiaries and poor-houses, objects of scorn, excluded in some places from the schools, and deprived of many other privileges and benefits which attach to the white men among whom they live. And yet, they insist that elsewhere an institution which has proved beneficial to this race shall be abolished, that it may be substituted by a state of things which is fraught with so many evils to the race which they claim to be the object of the solicitude!
TL;DR - people want to keep monuments of jerks in place in New Orleans.