On Monday, state offices in Mississippi and Alabama were closed in observation of Confederate Memorial Day. Mississippi’s governor has claimed April as Confederate Heritage Month. Last week, Ted Nugent, a man who referred to President Obama as a “chimpanzee” and a “subhuman mongrel” was a guest at the White House. Meanwhile in New Orleans, city workers no longer hindered by legal squabbling began the task of removing four Confederate monuments. Various news reports gave brief, if any, summaries behind the significance of each monument but I’m a big fan of sharing the dirt on exactly why these monuments should no longer stand.
The first of the memorials, the Battle of Liberty Place monument, was taken down at about 5:35am. The actual Battle of Liberty Place happened on September 14, 1874 when a group of several thousand men called the White League (predominantly made up of former Confederate soldiers hell-bent on maintaining white political power in Louisiana) attacked and fought the bi-racial Metropolitan police and state militia. For three days, the White League held the statehouse, armory and downtown New Orleans until Federal troops arrived and restored power to the elected government. The monument was raised in 1891 in support of this insurrection and in 1932 contained an inscription which noted that Northerners “recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” No, these dudes don’t deserve a monument.
The other three monuments, which are said to be removed at some point later this week, were in recognition of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis. Robert E. Lee once wrote in a letter to his wife that slavery was a worse deal for whites than it was for blacks because it was a necessary burden to whites to teach blacks how to be civilized. “The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race… How long their subjugation may be necessary is known and ordered by a wise Merciful Providence,” wrote Lee. We don’t need a monument to this guy.
P.G.T. Beauregard played a huge role in creating the battle flag that is now synonymous with the Confederacy. Following the Civil War, though he did vigorously advocate for political equality for African Americans his seemingly enlightened stance is largely attributed to the fact that he wanted a larger number of supporters to oust Northern carpetbaggers and keep them from claiming power in Louisiana. However, to be clear, Beauregard—who was raised on a sugarcane plantation—was as racist as ever. He once said, “”seventy-five years hence, the traveler in this country will look in vain for traces of either an Indian, a negro, or a buffalo.” We also do not need a monument to this guy.
Jefferson Davis, who would be elected as the president of the Confederacy, was a West Point Graduate as well as a U.S. Representative and Senator for Mississippi. He was a longstanding proponent of slavery in the southern states and was adamantly opposed to California joining the Union as a free state. Davis often spoke out on the inferiority of the black race and praised slavery for its moralistic values. In an 1850 speech given as the U.S. Senator for Mississippi, Davis said:
“ … They see that the slaves in their present condition in the South are comfortable and happy; they see them advancing in intelligence; they see the kindest relations existing between them and their masters; they see them provided for in age and sickness, in infancy and in disability; they see them in useful employment, restrained from the vicious indulgences to which their inferior nature inclines them; they see our penitentiaries never filled, and our poor-houses usually empty. let them turn to the other hand, and they see the same race in a state of freedom in the North; but instead of the comfort and kindness they receive at the South, instead of being happy and useful, they are, with few exceptions, miserable, degraded, filling the penitentiaries and poor-houses, objects of scorn, excluded in some places from the schools, and deprived of many other privileges and benefits which attach to the white men among whom they live. And yet, they insist that elsewhere an institution which has proved beneficial to this race shall be abolished, that it may be substituted by a state of things which is fraught with so many evils to the race which they claim to be the object of the solicitude!”
We definitely don’t need to commemorate this guy either.
Even without possessing a detailed knowledge of the men behind these monuments to white supremacy, the fact that these various statues are meant to celebrate a time in history when African-Americans were abused, tortured, raped and murdered by law is a crushing blow to the collective black American psyche. Additionally, such memorials do nothing to cultivate or promote any sense of healing, reconciliation or movement toward the type of equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Instead, these various erected symbols throughout the South serve to remind and reiterate that black feelings, views, and lives in America matter about as much or less than they did during slavery.
Yes, they need to go. Every last battle flag, statue, monument, inscription and honorific in the name of the Confederacy needs to be gone for good. After all, the Confederacy lost and their ideas of what American society ought to be no longer have any moral standing or right in our world today.