Monumental History: Controversial Monuments in New Orleans
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President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, died in this home on December 6, 1889. The marker stating this historical event is placed on the fence in front of the home. There is a large stone block located next to the road on which important dates of Davis' life are inscribed. The home is privately owned but can seen from the sidewalk. Davis died of acute bronchitis.
Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was born in Louisiana in 1818 and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate Army. Beauregard led Confederate forces to several important victories and stalled the Union advance in several theaters of the war despite the Union army's superior manpower and resources. Following his military career, Beauregard returned to Louisiana and joined a group of businessmen who hoped to forge a political alliance and compromise with former slaves wherein members of the Democratic Party would soften their opposition to civil rights in exchange for political support from newly-enfranchised Black men. As Reconstruction politics became more violent and African Americans were disfranchised by force, Beauregard and other businessmen returned to the Democratic Party and abandoned the issue of accommodation and political rights for former slaves. The former General worked as a railroad executive and promoted the state lottery as a way to make money for the government and as alternative to illegal gambling. In 1888, he was elected as commissioner of public works in New Orleans and died five years later.
One of the most controversial monuments in the United States, this memorial was erected in 1891 to honor white supremacists who attempted to overthrow the government of Louisiana in 1874. The monument was moved and modified, and was the subject of decades of heated debate regarding its proper disposition. In April 2016, city officials called for the monument's removal. While a vast majority of New Orleans residents wanted the monument removed, the state legislature intervened and in a series of partisan votes, enacted measures that took the authority to remove monuments from city leaders. After two years of demands by residents, state legislators voted against further actions to block the city from removing the monument in early 2017. On April 24, 2017, (a date that a few states still celebrate as "Confederate Memorial Day") workers disassembled and removed the monument under the cover of darkness, protected against possible white supremacist violence by police snipers. Mayor Mitch Landrieu stated in a speech (in the video below), "We will no longer allow the Confederacy to literally be put on a pedestal." The controversy surrounding the monument reflects the violent event the monument was meant to commemorate. Following the victory of a Republican ticket composed of Black and white candidates in the election of 1874, five thousand members of the Crescent City White League attempted to seize control of the state government by force. The attempted coup led to an armed confrontation between members of the racially-diverse police force. Thanks to the presence of federal troops, the attempted coup failed. However, the Battle of Liberty Place continues to represent the most deadly attack on an American police force. While the interpretation of the battle has changed, it is important to note that this monument was created to honor the members of the White League. In the 1990s, the monument was altered to include a plaque that honors the fallen officers who attempted to preserve democracy. In 2015, a special commission established by the city council recommended the complete removal of this monument. Demonstrating the ways that political parties can change over time, modern-day Democrats are in favor of removing the monument while Republicans defend the structure as part of the state's heritage.
In 1884, the city of New Orleans dedicated a statue and renamed this traffic circle was in honor of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Prior to this time, the area was known as Trivoli Square. The movement to create a monument and rename the area in honor of the former Confederate leader was spurred by the Robert E. Lee Monumental Association, a group of Southerners who worked to create monuments following Lee's death in 1870. In recent years, this and other monuments that honor Confederate leaders has become a source of controversy. After renewed debates in 2015, the city council and mayor ordered the removal of this and three other statues. This monument was removed on May 19, 2017, following the removal of three other New Orleans monuments: the Liberty Place monument, a statue of Jefferson Davis, and a statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard. You can watch a video and read the full transcript of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's May 19 speech at the link below.