To honor members of the Crescent City White League

Last night in New Orleans:

New Orleans on Monday began removing four monuments dedicated to the era of the Confederacy and its aftermath, capping a prolonged battle about the future of the memorials, which critics deemed symbols of racism and intolerance and which supporters viewed as historically important.

Workers dismantled an obelisk, which was erected in 1891 to honor members of the Crescent City White League who in 1874 fought in the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place against the racially integrated New Orleans police and state militia, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement.

That is of course “historically important” but not in the sense of “needs preservation in situ.” It’s historically very important that the South successfully resisted and defeated Reconstruction, but that doesn’t mean that monuments honoring that resistance are part of our Precious Heritage and must be retained. The monument honored the resistance. The resistance was all about keeping brown people forever subjugated. That’s not something we should keep on honoring with monuments.

The monument, which was sometimes used as a rallying point by David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan, has stirred debate for decades. Local leaders unsuccessfully tried to remove it in 1981 and 1993.

The workers were dressed in flak jackets, helmets and scarves to conceal their identities because of concerns about their safety. Police officers watched from a nearby hotel.

The monument was taken away on flatbed trucks.

The monuments were erected decades after the Civil War ended by people who wanted to demonstrate that the South should feel no guilt in having fought the war, the mayor’s statement said.

And no guilt in having fought to defend the institution of slavery.

The debate over Confederate symbols has taken center stage since nine people were killed at a black church in South Carolina in June 2015. South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag, which flew at its State House for more than 50 years, and other Southern cities have considered taking down monuments.

Harcourt Fuller, an assistant professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta, and a scholar of national and regional symbolism, said in an email that supporters of the monuments see them as part of their “historical and cultural legacy that needs to be maintained and protected.

“We’re talking largely about these concrete symbols,” he added. “By themselves, they’re lifeless. They’re not living symbols. But we as citizens project our own historical values onto them.”

And then we shoot up black churches.

The Liberty Place monument, which was 35 to 40 feet tall, commemorated a violent uprising by white Democrats against the racial integration of the city’s police force and the Republicans who governed Louisiana. The White League won the battle and forcibly removed the governor, but federal troops arrived three days later to return the governor to power.

The battle remained an important symbol to those who resisted Reconstruction, the period of transforming Confederate states after the Civil War. From 1932 until 1993, the monument bore a plaque that said, in part, that the “national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state,” the city statement said.

It wasn’t just the “period of transforming Confederate states” – it was the period of trying to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment in the South, of trying to establish and entrench a regime of civil rights, of trying to block efforts to reinstate slavery via Jim Crow laws. Generations of African Americans were much worse off because white supremacists successfully resisted.

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