Los Angeles Times
South’s monumental fight
New Orleans is latest to remove Confederate memorials, stirring furor
ATLANTA — New Orleans is the latest of a growing number of Deep South cities to purge its public space of Civil War-era memorials that some say are historically significant and others dismiss as offensive relics of white supremacy.
After drilling into the top of the Battle of Liberty Place obelisk — a marble monument that celebrates the 1874 uprising of a white supremacist militia against Louisiana’s Reconstruction state government — workers in bulletproof vests and masks slowly took the structure apart last week.
The city also plans to remove statues of three Confederate leaders — Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard — after months of vigorous protest from historical preservation and Confederate groups who say the city is sanitizing its history.
“The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion and tolerance,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement, adding that city officials would seek to place the monuments in a museum.
“This is not about politics, blame or retaliation. This is not a naive quest to solve all our problems at once,” he said. “This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and, most importantly, choose a better future.”
Debate over the future of Confederate memorials and symbols has become particularly intense across the South after the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshipers in a Charleston, S.C., church by a young white supremacist, Dylann Roof.
More than 700 Confederate monuments and statues are scattered on public property across the country, with nearly 300 of those in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Here are some monuments that have been the subject of heated controversy: Confederate Memorial Car ving, Stone Mountain, Ga.
The Stone Mountain Confederate memorial — a vast carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson on horseback — is the largest and most epic memorial to the Confederacy. The entire carved surface is larger than a football field, etched on a granite mountain outcrop outside downtown Atlanta, on a site where the Ku Klux Klan once gathered,.
The park’s memorial status is protected by Georgia law, but in 2015 a state NAACP leader called for the sculpture to be sandblasted, and the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution asking the governor to appoint a study group to consider adding other significant figures, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Carter.
Amid the controversy, park officials considered building a “Freedom Bell” honoring King atop the mountain, celebrating a line from the civil rights leader’s famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Yet the proposal faced opposition from Confederate history groups and the civil rights group that King founded, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Robert E. Lee statue, Charlottesville, Va.
The City Council of Charlottesville is facing a lawsuit after it voted in February to remove a bronze sculpture of the Confederate general astride his horse, Traveler, from the center of Lee Park.
Toward the end of last year, a city-appointed commission recommended the sculpture, commissioned in 1917 and created by renowned sculptors Henry Shrady and Leo Lentelli, remain in the park on the condition that its context be transformed with accurate historical information and a new design. Yet city officials ruled against such a compromise, voting 3 to 2 to remove it.
A month later, the Monument Fund, a division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and others filed a complaint in Charlottesville Circuit Court, arguing that the removal of the sculpture violated a state law that protects war memorials.
This month, the City Council voted to move forward in its efforts to sell the statue, requesting bids from museums, educational institutions and nonprofits.
John C. Calhoun monument, Charleston, S.C.
For more than 120 years, a bronze statue of John C. Calhoun has towered above Marion Square. The South Carolina native, who was a strong proponent of slavery and served as the seventh vice president of the U.S., stands atop a giant column just blocks away from the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight parishioners were shot to death by Roof at a Bible study class.
Just days after the massacre, the word “racist” was scrawled in red paint below Calhoun’s name. “And slavery” was added to an inscription reading, “Truth Justice and the Constitution.”
The city quickly cleaned up the graffiti. So far, city officials have made no move to dismantle or relocate the monument. Nathan Bedford Forrest statue, Memphis, Tenn.
The statue of Forrest, a Confederate lieutenant general and an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, has long been unpopular in the mostly African American city of Memphis.
Towering over a downtown park, the heroic bronze statue depicts the slave trader astride his favorite horse. Underneath, a marble base contains the remains of Forrest and his wife.
At least twice over the last two years, the monument has been vandalized, with “Black Lives Matter” scrawled over the marble in red spray paint.
In 2015, the Memphis City Council voted to remove the statue, along with the remains of Forrest and his wife. Yet the city has been thwarted by a Tennessee law that prevents cities or counties from relocating or otherwise disturbing war memorials on public properties. Last October, the Tennessee Historical Commission denied the City Council’s application for a waiver that would let it relocate the monument.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has vowed to explore other options to remove the statue.