“But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were brought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture.
America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.”
Mitch Landrieu, the Mayor of New Orleans, has given a speech that is long overdue. In my last post I said it has never happened so I was pleasantly surprised at the words in his address. None of our southern leaders in the United States have ever had the spine (and let’s be honest the political capital) to say the words about the confederacy that so many of my fellow citizens need to hear and acknowledge and accept. We cannot heal our wounds until we approach our history with honesty.
The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.
It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.
These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
*Before anyone starts yapping about erasing history watch the speech. No books are being burned and no battlefields are being closed. There are over 15,000 monuments and historical markers related to the Civil War. Taking statues from places of honor– statues that never should have been erected — isn’t erasing history. It’s being honest about it and correcting the historical record. Truth be told Jefferson Davis should never had statues put up in his honor. He should have been hanged for treason.