And then there were the monuments. There was the Liberty Monument, erected in 1891 to commemorate militia Crescent City White League’s killing of 11 black and white police officers in a rebellion against the Reconstruction-era government in 1874. Outside of the State Supreme Court Building, there was the statue of E.D. White, a former state senator, son of a slaveowner, Supreme Court Chief Justice and member of the Crescent City White League. (The White League was also responsible for the Colfax Riot of 1873, where approximately 150 black people were massacred in Colfax, Louisiana, as well as a massacre in Thibodaux that killed some 300 black people. During the brief Reconstruction era, the White League was responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 black people.)
The list went on to include the French Quarter’s Jackson Square and its prominent statue of Andrew Jackson, architect of the Trail of Tears and the lesser-known Fort Negro Massacre; Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and his mounted horse statue in front of the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park; and Confederate President Jefferson Davis a few blocks away on a major street bearing his namesake. Lastly was Robert E. Lee, the near-literal phantom of the Confederacy, who never set foot in New Orleans, but yet stands atop its highest perch, as a 16-foot statue atop a 68-foot column in a circle named after him in the heart of the city.
Every Mardi Gras season, children from high schools around the city invariably march around Lee Circle, the dramatic epicenter of most parade routes. The other day, New Orleans comedian Mario P told me that when he attended John McDonogh High School, his band director would never let the band play more than a solitary drum beat when they marched under the gaze of Lee. Apparently, similar acts of resistance also inspired elders who have fought against symbols of white supremacy for decades now.