New Orleans Begins Erasing White Supremacy, Not History, By Removing Confederate Monuments

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This week the city of New Orleans began removing monuments to Confederate figures from public areas. This process began two years ago when the city council voted to remove the monuments but was then stalled by lawsuits attempting to keep them in place. The fact that it is considered “controversial” to remove monuments to a failed state that waged war against the United States of America in order to preserve its economic base of chattel slavery should appall every American.

The first monument removed on Monday was an obelisk in Liberty Place on Canal Street. This was no statue to an honorable general or great leader who happened to be on the wrong side of history. It was erected in 1891 to commemorate the attempted uprising sixteen years prior by the Crescent City White League to overthrow the recently elected Union-allied governor. They succeeded and occupied the state house for three days before President Grant sent in federal troops to clear them out.

The next monuments to come down will be statues of General Robert E Lee, PGT Beauregard, and first and only Confederate President Jefferson Davis. These are not the only honorifics bestowed on Confederate figures in the state. There are numerous schools, streets, and even parishes named after them. I happen to live in Jefferson Davis Parish, but there is also a Beauregard Parish and Allen Parish, named after a Confederate governor.

Much of the defense of the monumentss has been based on straw man arguments about not rewriting or erasing history. There is a difference between remembering our history and honoring it. The Confederacy was a part of Southern history that should always be remembered but never honored. It was a traitorous government that rebelled against the United States to protect slavery and the supremacy of the white race. Its Vice President, Alexander Stephens, said so explicitly:

Our new government is founded upon exactly [this] idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

The states’ declarations of secession echo the sentiment.

It is not “heritage” to celebrate anything related to the Confederate States of America. It was the darkest four years in the history of the South. They lost. Hundreds of thousands of people died defending white supremacy. They weren’t defending their homes or their states, since those things wouldn’t have been threatened if they hadn’t rebelled against their own government.

The only thing worth celebrating about the Confederacy were its defeats and eventual surrender. There should be monuments to each Union victory throughout the South, and a massive Civil War museum at Appomattox.

If New Orleans wants to honor its history, it could replace one of the Confederate “hero” monuments with a new one celebrating the Union victory at the Battle of New Orleans. There are 26 named battles in Louisiana - the United States won all but four of them. That’s plenty of Civil War history and “heritage” worth celebrating.


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