New Orleans grapples with its Confederate past

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Several prominent monuments around New Orleans are coming under fire as the nation debates the placement of Confederate symbols.

The city of New Orleans took its first legal step Thursday in the possible relocation of four Confederate monuments by calling for 60 days of public meetings. After that, a city council vote would determine whether the monuments are a public nuisance — and if so, could be removed.

“This discussion is about whether these monuments, built to reinforce the false valor of a war fought over slavery, ever really belonged in a city as great as New Orleans, whose lifeblood flows from our diversity and inclusiveness,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the city council.

The monuments include a statute of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that is perched atop a column at a major New Orleans intersection: most downtown Mardi Gras parades pass through Lee Circle.

Also targeted is the equestrian statue of Louisiana native and Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, located at the entrance to New Orleans City Park and close to the annual Jazz Festival.

The Battle of Liberty Place Monument, which marks a post-war fight between the so-called “White League” and the reconstruction government in 1874 is also marked for relocation, as is a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis died in the city in 1889.

There is also an effort to rename Jefferson Davis Parkway. The city has proposed renaming the street after Dr. Norman Francis, who recently retired as the head of Xavier University after 47 years.

New Orleans, which was the Confederacy’s largest city, surrendered in 1862 and was under Federal occupation beyond the Civil War’s end in 1865.

by Andreas Preuss