26 May 2017

Monuments to a Terrible Past

by O'Neil De Noux

Confederate monuments have been removed from public places in New Orleans.

A little perspective about these monuments. Founded on May 7, 1718, New Orleans has been around for 299 years. For 1 year and 3 months she was a confederate city (from January 26, 1861 until April 25, 1862). That's it - 15 months.

For the record - I'm a New Orleanian. Born, raised and educated in New Orleans. I'm fairly intelligent (my last measured IQ was 161). I am a US Army veteran, been a police officer most of my life. I'm an internationally published, award winning writer with 34 books in print and over 400 short stories sales. I have a voice and I now use it.

I dislike changes in our city, dislike renaming streets (What happened to Good Children Street and Craps Street and Nyades and so many others?). I love art and sculpture and statues and have given the removal of confederate monuments a lot of thought.

There is much to be admired about Robert E. Lee but let's face it - he broke his oath to defend the constitution of the United States when he quit the US Army to join the Confederate cause. He led men into battle against the US Army, against men who died flying this flag:

Could you take up arms against this flag?

Robert E. Lee was an important leader of the armed insurrection that divided our nation and caused the deadliest war in American history (Over 750,000 killed and an undetermined amount of civilian casualties). His particular genius at war prolonged the conflict. Jefferson Davis and P. G. T. Beauregard were also traitors. Beauregard, in command of Confederate forces at Fort Sumpter, started the war. We are talking four years of horrific history in America.

Robert E. Lee has no connection to New Orleans (visiting the city doesn't count). His statue was put atop Tivoli Circle by post-reconstruction white citizens thumbing their noses at the Yankees in Washington. The Lee statue, just as the statues of Jefferson Davis and P. G. T. Beauregard, does not celebrate the glory of old New Orleans. They celebrate the lost cause of a confederacy of states whose economies depended on human slavery. They celebrate the arrogance of a people who thought they were better than ungentlemanly Yankees and believed people with darker skin were subhuman and could be bought and sold like beasts of burden.

These monuments were not even put up to celebrate the glory of the old south. They were put up to celebrate defiance, to show the world white people were back in charge of the south after reconstruction and their will be done. Only white folks can vote now. Bring on segregation.

The Liberty Monument is not only a celebration of white power, it is the ONLY American sculpture celebrating the murder of police officers (white and black officers) by an armed mob of terrorists. Abominable. It is a "monument to a deadly white-supremacist uprising in 1874" (www.apnews.com). New Orleans Mayor Mich Landrieu explains these statues "perpetuate the idea of white supremacy". He vowed, "We will no longer allow the Confederacy to be put on a pedestal in the heart of our city."

As I said earlier, I love art and sculpture and statues. These monuments should not be desecrated or destroyed but their time is long past. Put them in a museum.

photo of St. Louis Cathedral © O'Neil De Noux



  1. A very sensible conclusion.

    I suspect there is often a tension between preserving history - although as you point out the history being preserved is often often to interpretation- and the life and health of a living community.

  2. A thoughtful post here, O'Neil. Thanks for the perspectives.

  3. O'Neil, a great post.
    In Atlanta, Georgia, there used to be a statue of Thomas E. Watson on the Georgia State Capitol lawn. Mr. Watson was virulently anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and (later in life) anti-black. Besides being a lawyer and holding public office for years, Watson ran the "People's Party Paper" and "The Jeffersonian, both of which, celebrating his anti-everyone but white ideals. In 1913, he used his media as an incendiary device to get Leo Frank (Jewish, accused of murdering Mary Phagen) convicted and, later, lynched. "In August 16, 1915, Frank was abducted from his prison cell by a group of prominent men and lynched in the early hours of August 17, 1915, an act for which Watson had both called and later celebrated on the pages of The Jeffersonian". Watson's statue bore the legend "A champion of right who never faltered in the cause." The statue was removed in November of 2013 -
    and relocated across the street at Park Plaza. (Head shaking going on.)

  4. BTW - references for the Thomas E. Watson story are my husband and Wikipedia.

  5. In downtown Gettysburg there is a statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier. It looks like any average white man, but my friend whose family lives in Gettysburg told me that the statue had Negroid features at one time & the facial features were revised to look more Caucasian. This happened at least 20 years ago & could have been well before that.

  6. You make a compelling case, O'Neil. I couldn't agree more--such statues belong in a museum.

  7. I read the speech that the New Orleans mayor gave when the statues came down a few days ago. It was long but well worth the read. Good post, O'Neil.


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