New Orleans’ leaders on Thursday made a sweeping move to break with the city’s Confederate past when the City Council voted to remove prominent Confederate monuments along some of its busiest streets.
The council’s 6-1 vote allows the city to remove four monuments, including a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood at the center of a traffic circle for 131 years.
It was an emotional meeting — often interrupted by heckling — infused with references to slavery, lynchings and racism, as well as the pleas of those who opposed removing the monuments to not “rewrite history.”
City Council President Jason Williams called the vote a symbolic severing of an “umbilical cord” tying the city to the offensive legacy of the Confederacy and the era of Jim Crow laws.
“If anybody wins here, it will be the South, because it is finally rising,” Williams, who is African-American, said.
Stacy Head, a council member at large, was the lone vote against the removal. She is one of two white council members.
She lamented what she called a rush to take the monuments down without adequate consideration of their historic value and meaning to many in New Orleans.
Fixing historic injustice is “a lot harder work than removing monuments,” she said, even as many in the packed council chambers jeered her.
She said the issue was dividing the city, not uniting it. “I think all we will be left with is pain and division.”
The decision came after months of impassioned debate. On Thursday, four preservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to stop the city from taking down the monuments by challenging the city’s removal process.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu first proposed taking down these monuments after police said a white supremacist killed nine parishioners inside the African-American Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in June.
Anti-Confederate sentiment has grown since then around the country, along with protests against police mistreatment, as embodied by the Black Lives Matter movement.
Before Thursday’s vote, Landrieu told the council and residents who gathered on both sides of the issue that for New Orleans to move forward, “we must reckon with our past.”
Landrieu said the monuments reinforce the Confederate ideology of slavery, limit city progress and divide the city. He used President Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Landrieu signed the new ordinance into law shortly after the vote. His administration said it would cost $170,000 to take the monuments down and put them in a warehouse until a new location is found for them — perhaps in a park or museum. The city said it would hire contractors soon to remove the monuments.
The meeting was lively and sometimes disorderly.
The Rev. Shawn Anglim, a Methodist pastor, is among clergy who have spoken out in favor of taking down the monuments. Anglim told those gathered Thursday to “do the right thing.”
“Do it for our children, and our children’s children,” he said.
Activist Malcolm Suber called the monuments “products of the Jim Crow era, an era when blacks were hunted and persecuted.” Others said they want the council to go even further and change street names associated with “white supremacy.”
The most imposing of the monuments the council has voted to strike from the cityscape has had a commanding position over St. Charles Avenue since 1884: A 16-foot-tall bronze statue of Lee stands atop a 60-foot-high Doric marble column, which itself rises over granite slabs on an earthen mound. Four sets of stone staircases, aligned with the major compass points, ascend the mound.
Above it all, the Virginian stands in his military uniform, with his arms folded and his gaze set firmly on the North — the embodiment of the “Cult of the Lost Cause” southerners invoked to justify continued white power after the Civil War.
The council also voted to remove a bronze figure of the Confederate president that now stands at Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway, and a more local hero, Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, who straddles a prancing horse at the entrance to City Park. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was born in St. Bernard Parish, and commanded Confederate forces in the war’s first battle.
The most controversial is an 1891 obelisk honoring the Crescent City White League. An inscription added in 1932 said the Yankees withdrew federal troops and “recognized white supremacy in the South” after the group challenged Louisiana’s biracial government after the Civil War. In 1993, these words were covered by a granite slab with a new inscription, saying the obelisk honors “Americans on both sides” who died and that the conflict “should teach us lessons for the future.”
Before the vote, council member Head asked to keep the large monuments to Lee and Beauregard in place. But her motion received no support from the seven-person council.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Annette Thomas says
Looks like another way to rewrite history. Compare it to the Germans writing out the Jewish death camps & gas chambers. Just like it didn’t happen. We should not dispise history. We should learn from it.
glenda lafont says
its a sterilization of our history. that’s it make it surgically clean as. though nothing ever happened. history may be painful but its history, its our story. how far can we go back? wipe it all out.
Elle McCarthy says
Why don’t they also write out all references to slavery, and say that it didn’t happen? Taking down these historical memorials is just another stupid way to be “politically correct” I suppose in another 100 years we can tear down all the memorials of the 9/11 attack and say it didn’t happen—– Who are these moronic people who decide these things?
It is a terrible shame to wipe out the memories of the Confederate soldiers. Next it will be the World War two soldiers because we used an atomic bomb to save lives. This PC stuff is just like Donald Trump said. BS!
Everybody knows it is a black thing which feeds liberal politicians. No one in New Orleans has ever been held as a slave. This has been a witch hunt ever since Obama got in office when he started poking the flames of racism! Slavery didn’t start in the South! When the thirteen colonies were established slaves were being used and traded by the British colonist. Even after the the colonist won their independence and established the United States slavery continued up north. George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and numerous wealthy politicians owned slaves. So my question is why aren’t the blacks and liberals demanding the United States Flag be changed, it is tied to slavery? Why aren’t they demanding George Washington monuments be removed, even Abe Lincoln was gifted a slave by his father-in-law which he kept for years before freeing him, demand him to be erased from history also. What this comes down to is that it is a hatred for the South, and hatred of the Republicans. Has nothing to do with Slavery other wise the United States flag would have already been changed and Washington and Lincolns monuments would have been torn down, You notice that New Orleans City council is majority black and they are the true raciest alone with other blacks run cities. The Liberals wants to keep minority voters so they go along beating their war drum against the South!
Sad day for this country for both north and south. Everyone regrets the whole idea of bringing slaves to this country.
You have said it well. Obama has stirred up so much hatred of whites, one has to wonder what his grandmother or mother (both white) did to make him so hateful. I feel sorry for his daughters….they must wonder about their father and mother and their white relatives. They will never know the true history of this wonderful country they have the privilege of growing up in. As for me, I shall never visit New Orleans again. Too bad Katrina did more damage to Mississippi coast than to New Orleans….it should have come ashore 90 miles to the West of Mississippi! Maybe next time ,,,,,
Here in New Orleans we have the statues of the past 100 yrs. or so. The black citizens that want to remove them, including the Mayor wants to replace them with black figures such as Satchmo the musical figure , King the you know what, all over this city there are street signs relating to black figures including the Airport that has been renamed for Lewis Armstrong national airport, and many more , but there is no uprising about all of that. One day the people will wake up and realize that this is all about bull —-. The powers that be are mostly black here in the city of N.O. are just causing all of this stuff because of out side influence and the locals are going along with it because of racial and ignorant behavior. We have a crime problem that needs to be addressed so bad it is unbelievable. The mayor and chief of police are talking and that is all. This GREAT city is falling and there is no one to catch it. People are moving out of it by the droves. So good bye New Orleans and good knowing you.
Alan Bivens says
How many people know that Robert E. Lee had inherited his slaves and immediately freed them BEFORE the War of Northern Aggression? How many people know that Ulysses S. Grant had many slaves and did not free them until many years AFTER the Civil War. That the War was over the Northern States imposing high tariffs on goods, such as cotton, that the South was selling to the British and other European countries because the Northern manufacturors wanted the cotton cheap? That the North controlled Congress because they had more states (Senators) and population (representatives). At the onset of the War, the Northern population was 22 million and the Southern population was 9 million. That after the war, many northern states STILL had slaves, Delaware did not free slaves until the 1880`s. Yes, History is being “cleansed”.
harri mitche says
just like the Nazis erase history.
to suit there on needs
Appears we are headed for another civil war and these monuments to history, no matter how offensive they may be to some, will be back and should not be removed now. This is PC’ing at its worst!
I am a northern Yankee (Minnesota) and they are not offensive in any way. The only thing offensive is you people in New Orleans letting this happen. These symbols are very important.
David, you said a mouthful. This BS is all about racism on the black citizens of New Orleans. The ones causing this ignorant stuff are too young to know what they are talking about and are interested in only bringing up racial hatred. The crime problem here in this city is so bad you can’t walk down most streets with out being mugged or killed. If the young black were interested in something, they would stop their black brothers from doing those things.The same city council that voted to take down the 100 yr. old statures if in good faith would do something about the crime problem. All this is , is about RACISM plain and simple.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Justin W says
A precedence has now been established. Future generations may seek to remove other monuments to people and causes which fall out of popularity.
My town has a statue of some confederate notable on the Court Square. While I probably wouldn’t have agreed with that man on a variety of things, I have better ways to spend my time than going after monuments. If the people of New Orleans wants to do something they should work to ensure that all people are treated fairly and are provided with the opportunity to be whatever they can be going forward. It’s easier for someone to take down a statue than to actually work to improve the lot of disadvantaged people.
Not even God can change history. Good or bad. But apparently govt can try. Removing these statues will become part of NOLAs history. This is almost like “black Jim Crow”. Get rid of the things you find offensive using govt power to do so?
Now is, and has been, becoming a nation of White Crow Laws.
James S. Ford says
New Orleans depends heavily upon tourism for its income. A great part of its draw is the PRESERVED HISTORICAL places dating back hundreds of years. My wife and I and our friends have made many vacation trips together to the city. We have lamented over the years that the city’s lack of responsible leadership has allowed deterioration and unsightly deconstruction to continue. The once beautiful French Quarter with its formerly beautiful historic hotels, cafes, and clubs is now steadily taking on the look of an army base gate town with strip clubs, tattoo joints, and cheap trinket stores. It has become unsafe to be in the area after dark. Now the current misguided bunch of city “leaders” is voting to spend tens of thousands of dollars to destroy even more of the city’s history rather than to restore its crumbling remaining sites. Annual visits to New Orleans will cease for us if this ill advised plan is carried through and I would hope many others will boycott the slum New Orleans will soon become.
I believe many, many people will spend their vacation dollars somewhere safer and more beautiful than New Orleans after this crew is through removing things! Think of the conventions that will not be held there….
Yes, Democrats always divide a City…State…Country.
Agreed 100% plus.
The truth be told, this past summer when we visited the French Quarter in N.O. (one of our favorite vacation getaways) we noticed that there were a lot less heterosexual white people, lower quality food served in famous restaurants, no more real silver smith on Chartres St, lower quality antiques at Cohen Antiques on Royal St, the French Market was gone and now a corporate retail selection of the finest Chinese goods that money can be wasted on stand in the former Markets place. Let the Communists take New Orleans…the way it is now, as it stands now, a visit to Chicago can have the same effect for a lot less, but the food will be cheaper and better.
You said a mouthful. I feel for our city and i can’t ( BY MYSELF ) do anything about it. If you knew the city council you would realize why I said that. God Bless our great city.
If you tear all these monuments down, what you will replace them with are statues of Mohammed?? How stupid are Americans these days,, someone called Rush Limbaugh the other day and he made a very correct statement. He said, ” Americans today are too stupid to survive the next 25 years. This once great country will never be as great as Rome that lasted 1000 years. America made only 200 years of greatness. We will never make the next 100. Thanks to political correctness, this is killing our country!
Rush is correct! Our only chance is having Trump as President!
Boy did you say a mouth full.
Stupidity at it’s finest. Removing the monuments will not remove history. The civil war was NOT about slavery! It was about states rights.
Wayne F says
Well, here we go again. Another fine example of the will of the people being totally ignored by a small group of supposed leaders that don’t have sense enough to pour piss out of a boot.
Bill Roberts says
Remove all Historic Confederate monuments?????
Can this be ISIS at work?
Sound like new orleans is going the way detroit did. Its dying.
Henry R. Mosier, Jr. says
It is difficult to condone the destruction of our country’s history, whether the history to be destroyed is painful or pleasant. I have never condoned slavery of any people, and it is mind boggling that less than a hundred years ago a person in this country could, “own”, another person.
having said that it is just as mind boggling that our country is destroying any part of our heritage however distasteful that heritage may be. Our marine Corps reunion has been held twice in new Orleans, but I will never visit the city again.
These monuments are NOT monuments to slavery, they are monuments to the men and women of all races who fought for the Confederacy in the 1860’s. Had the Southern States been allowed to secede, which IS allowed in the Constitution, then so many lives would have never been lost and the nation would not have suffered the division that it has. Even the bigotry would not exist today as the system of Slavery was on the way out as machines were taking over for cheap human labor. Had that been allowed to happen the States would have probably reformed and become even stronger than before or at the very least we would have a bond between the two Countries that could not be broken.
Now a mostly Black City council is ‘getting back’ at perceived wrongs by committing more wrongs. Thanks Obama, you are succeeding in bringing back bigotry and hatred between the races.
I visited N.O. recently. Probably won’t be back if that’s the way things are going.
Amy M. says
“Above it all, the Virginian stands in his military uniform, with his arms folded and his gaze set firmly on the North — the embodiment of the “Cult of the Lost Cause” southerners invoked to justify continued white power after the Civil War.”
Come on, Horn News! Really? This kind of biased Leftist garbage from you too? I really hope I missed something here and am mistaken. I am a Southerner and I am so sick of the media on BOTH sides trashing the South. This kind of thing just plays right into the hands of the divisive “Progressives” who want to see us tear our country apart. News flash- the North had slaves too, and Lincoln did not genuinely give a damn about any slaves until he saw his control over the country slipping. He said if he could have won the war without freeing a single slave, he would have done so. Views on race were vastly different then in society as a whole. There were still slaves outside of the South at the time of the war. Lincoln wanted to round them all up and ship them back to Africa. He was hardly the great saint and friend of the black man that he is protrayed as, but history is always written by the victor.
Please drop the self-righteous, holier than thou tone, whomever wrote this piece. Anyone who really believes the issues surrounding the Civil War and the time after it were solely black and white (no pun intended) should probably should leave the writing about the subject to someone else with a more nuanced understanding of history, not just partisan sound bites.
I applaud Stacy Head for attempting to persuade cooler heads to prevail. We as a nation should not leap to change public policies because one mentally deficient kid commits a horrendous act while wearing a certain t-shirt. The politicians and the media pull our strings and we dance. The instigators of the Left have been milking each and every singular sensational act of violence done by individuals to feed a frenzy of hatred and division on all sides- white/black, men/women, gay/straight, Christian/everybody else, etc. Whatever happened to people wanting to get along and love their neighbor as the proverb says?
The one plaque with the bizarre inscription was replaced by a more inclusive one. Lee was a fine military commander and a great man. He did not fight in order to specifically or purposefully oppress black people, he fought for his home. Honoring him and learning objective facts about him is not about racism. That monument has been there for decades and people have been fine with it. Society has ceased moving forwards and is moving backwards now.