Robert E. Lee Monument (New Orleans, Louisiana)

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Robert E. Lee Monument
Robert E Lee Monument at Lee Circle. New Orleans Louisiana.jpg
The monument in 2015
Robert E. Lee Monument (New Orleans, Louisiana) is located in Louisiana
Robert E. Lee Monument (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Robert E. Lee Monument (New Orleans, Louisiana) is located in the US
Robert E. Lee Monument (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Location Lee Circle (900–1000 blocks St. Charles Avenue), New Orleans, Louisiana
Coordinates 29°56′35″N 90°4′20″W / 29.94306°N 90.07222°W / 29.94306; -90.07222Coordinates: 29°56′35″N 90°4′20″W / 29.94306°N 90.07222°W / 29.94306; -90.07222
Built 1884
Built by Roy, John
Sculptor Alexander Doyle
NRHP Reference # 91000254[1]
Added to NRHP March 19, 1991

The Robert E. Lee Monument in New Orleans, Louisiana, was a historic monument dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It was moved on May 19, 2017, and any future display is uncertain.[2] The monument was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.[1][3] It was included by New Orleans magazine in June 2011 as one of the city's "11 important statues".[4]

History[edit]

Robert E. Lee Monument, close up

The monument was dedicated in 1884, at Tivoli Circle (since commonly called Lee Circle) on St. Charles Avenue. Dignitaries present at the dedication on February 22—George Washington's birthday—included former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, two daughters of General Lee, and Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard.[5] Efforts raise funds to build the statue began after Lee's death in 1870 by the Robert E. Lee Monument Association, which by 1876 had raised the $36,400 needed. The association's president was Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Fenner.[6] New York sculptor Alexander Doyle was hired to sculpt the statue, which was installed in 1884. Base and pedestal designed and built by John Ray [Roy], architect; contract dated 1877. Cost $26,474.39. John Hagan, a builder, was contracted to "furnish and set" the column. Cost $9,350.[7]

The statue itself rises 16'6" tall, with an 8'4" base, standing on a 60' column with an interior staircase, according to a schematic released by the City of New Orleans on the day of the removal of the statue and its base, May 19, 2017.[8] The Lee statue faced "north where, as local lore has it, he can always look in the direction of his military adversaries."[9]

In January of 1953, the statue of General Lee was lifted from atop the column for repairs to the monument's foundation. The statue was returned to its perch in January the following year. [10]

A racial confrontation occurred at the monument on January 19, 1972, the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Addison Roswell Thompson, a perennial segregationist candidate for governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans, and his friend and mentor, Rene LaCoste (not to be confused with the French tennis player René Lacoste), clashed with a group of Black Panthers. Then eighty-nine years of age and a former opera performer in New York City, LaCoste was described as "dapper in seersucker slacks and navy sports jacket" and with a "white mustache and goatee" resembling Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken. LaCoste and Thompson dressed in Klan robes for the occasion and placed a Confederate flag at the monument. The Black Panthers began throwing bricks at the pair, but police arrived in time to prevent serious injury. At the time of the Thompson/LaCoste confrontation, David Duke, then an active Klansman who served from 1989 to 1992 in the Louisiana House of Representatives, had been among those jailed in New Orleans for "inciting to riot".[11]

Removal of the monument[edit]

On June 24, 2015, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu acknowledged the impact of the June 2015 Charleston church shooting, but credited a 2014 conversation with New Orleans jazz ambassador Wynton Marsalis for his decision to call for the removal of the Lee statue and renaming of Lee Circle and other city memorials to Confederate slaveholders.[12]

As part of a sixty-day period for public input, two city commissions called for the removal of four monuments associated with the Confederacy: the Lee statue, statues of Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard, and an obelisk commemorating the Battle of Liberty Place. Governor Bobby Jindal opposed the removals.[13]

On December 15, 2015, Wynton Marsalis explained his reasons for advocating removal in The Times-Picayune: "When one surveys the accomplishments of our local heroes across time from Iberville and Bienville, to Andrew Jackson, from Mahalia Jackson, to Anne Rice and Fats Domino, from Wendell Pierce, to John Besh and Jonathan Batiste, what did Robert E. Lee do to merit his distinguished position? He fought for the enslavement of a people against our national army fighting for their freedom; killed more Americans than any opposing general in history; made no attempt to defend or protect this city; and even more absurdly, he never even set foot in Louisiana. In the heart of the most progressive and creative cultural city in America, why should we continue to commemorate this legacy?"[14][15]

Contrary to assertions that Robert E. Lee never set foot in New Orleans, he visited or passed through the city in 1846, 1848, 1860 and 1861, while serving in the United States Army.[16][17] While in New Orleans, Lee was quartered at the military post of Jackson Barracks.[18]

On December 17, 2015, the New Orleans City Council voted to relocate four statues from public display, among them the statue of Robert E. Lee located in Lee Circle.[19][20] Four organizations immediately filed a lawsuit[21] in federal court the day of the decision and the city administration agreed that no monument removals would take place before a court hearing scheduled for January 14, 2016.[22]

In January 2016, David Mahler, a contractor who had been hired by the City of New Orleans to remove the four statues including the statue of Robert E. Lee located in Lee Circle backed out of his contract with the city after he, his family, and employees began receiving death threats.[23][24] According to authorities in Baton Rouge, early on the morning of January 19, 2016 the Fire Department found a 2014 Lamborghini Huracan ablaze in a parking lot behind David Mahler's company, H&O Investments, LLC. The car, belonging to Mahler and valued at $200,000 was completely destroyed.[25][26]

On March 4, 2016, State Senator Beth Mizell of Franklinton in Washington Parish filed a bill in the Legislature seeking to block local governments in Louisiana from removing Confederate monuments and other commemorative statues without State permission.[27] The Mizell bill was unexpectedly assigned by Senate President John Alario, a Democrat from the City of Westwego in Jefferson Parish, to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee dooming the bill where of the 9 members five are African-American Democrats, led by committee chairperson Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans, rather than to the State Senate Education Committee composed of six Republicans and two Democrats.[28]

2016–17 legal developments[edit]

On March 25, 2016 a three-judge panel of the U. S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously issued an injunction for that suit brought in federal district court by the Monumental Task Committee and other groups opposed to the removal of the Robert E. Lee Monument, and statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard prohibiting the City of New Orleans from proceeding forward with the removal of the Lee Monument and statues of Davis and Beauregard. The Court of Appeals set a hearing date of September 28, 2016 for oral argument for whether its injunction should be maintained pending a final judgment on the merits of the district court suit.[29] The decision of the Court of Appeals superseded that ruling of United States District Court Judge Carl Barbier rendered January 26, 2016 denying the motion of the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction against the City of New Orleans pending a final judgment on the merits of their suit.[30][31]

On April 6, 2016 Senate Bill 276 by State Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton to block local governments in Louisiana from removing Confederate monuments and other commemorative statues without State permission[32] was rejected by the Governmental Affairs Committee on a straight 5-4 racial and party line vote.[33] On August 14, 2016 pro-monuments House Bill 944 by Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport to create a state board with the power to grant or deny proposals to remove or relocate a statue, monument, memorial or plaque that has been on public property for more than 30 years died in the Municipal Affairs Committee after a 7-7 tie vote.[34][35][36]

Following oral argument before United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on September 28, 2016 for whether its injunction should be maintained pending a final judgment of the district court on the merits of the suit brought by the Monumental Task Committee and other groups opposed to the removal of the Robert E. Lee Monument, and monuments to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, on March 6, 2017 the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously held the City of New Orleans should be enjoined no further and could proceed forward with the removal of the three Confederate monuments. In support of its ruling the three-judge panel found, "we have exhaustively reviewed the record and can find no evidence in the record suggesting that any party other than the city has ownership” and the plaintiffs failed to show any irreparable harm would occur to the monuments for the City of New Orleans proceeding forward with their removal, even assuming such evidence would constitute harm to the groups bringing the suit.[37] The decision of the Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling of United States District Court Judge Carl Barbier rendered January 26, 2016, denying the motion of the plaintiffs for a preliminary injunction against the City of New Orleans pending a final judgment on the merits of their suit.[38]

Dismantling[edit]

Spectators watching the Lee statue lifted from its column

On May 18, 2017 the City of New Orleans announced the statue of General Robert E. Lee would be relocated the following day.[39][40] On May 19, 2017 just after 6 p.m. following a day-long effort the statue of Lee was finally detached and removed from its column pedestal.[41][42][43]

While crews were working on removing the statue, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu gave a speech at Gallier Hall discussing the historical context of the Lee and other monuments, and the reasons for and meaning of their removal.[44]

The removal prompted Mississippi lawmaker Karl Oliver to post on Facebook that those supporting the take-down of the Confederate monuments "should be LYNCHED". He later apologized for this statement.[45][46]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ McConnaughey, Janet; Santana, Rebecca (May 19, 2017). "Robert E. Lee statue is last Confederate monument moved in New Orleans". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. Retrieved May 20, 2017. 
  3. ^ "Robert E. Lee Monument". National Register of Historic Places Database (Louisiana). State of Louisiana, Office of Cultural Development, Division of Historic Preservation. Archived from the original on 2015-07-15. Retrieved 12 July 2015. . Listing includes 3 photographs, map, and details of site's historic significance as exemplar of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, as conveyed in NRHP nomination
  4. ^ "The New Orleans Art Trail: 11 Important Statues". New Orleans. Retrieved 22 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Chatelain, Neil. "Lee's Circle". New Orleans Historical. University of New Orleans History Department; Tulane University Communication Department. Retrieved 11 July 2015. <--Broken link, May 2017.
  6. ^ Charles Erasmus Fenner (1834-1911) in the Louisiana Historical Association's Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, retrieved 10 April 2017.
  7. ^ Wilson, Jr., Samuel; Lemann, Bernard (1971). "Architectural Inventory". New Orleans Architecture, Volume I: The Lower Garden District. Gretna, LA: Friends of the Cabildo and Pelican Publishing Company. p. 145. Lee Monument, Lee Circle. 
  8. ^ Rainey, Richard (May 19, 2017). "There's a staircase under the Robert E. Lee statue?". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 19 May 2017.  Schematic of site
  9. ^ "Louisiana's Civil War Museum". New Orleans Official Guide. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  10. ^ Karst, James (14 May 2017). "The leaning tower of Lee: statue of Confederate general was encircled in controversy in 1953". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 23 May 2017. 
  11. ^ Sims, Patsy (1996). "The Klan" (2nd ed.). Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 152–153. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ McClendon, Robert (June 24, 2015). "Mitch Landrieu on Confederate landmarks: 'That's what museums are for'". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 9 July 2015. Landrieu recalled Marsalis saying. When the mayor asked why, Marsalis responded, "Let me help you see it through my eyes. Who is he? What does he represent? And in that most prominent space in the city of New Orleans, does that space reflect who we were, who we want to be or who we are?" 
  13. ^ Schachar, Natalie (August 15, 2015). "Jindal seeks to block removal of Confederate monuments in New Orleans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  14. ^ "Why New Orleans should take down Robert E. Lee's statue: Wynton Marsalis". The Times-Picayune. December 15, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2015. 
  15. ^ Weiss, Debra Cassans. "Removal of Confederate monuments violates free-speech right to preserve history, suit says". abajournal. American Bar Association. Retrieved December 21, 2015. 
  16. ^ Encyclopediavirginia.org
  17. ^ Thomas, Emory M. (1997) Robert E. Lee: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. p. 426.
  18. ^ Geauxguardmuseums.com
  19. ^ Rainey, Richard (December 17, 2015). "Lee Circle no more: New Orleans to remove 4 Confederate statues". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 17 December 2015. 
  20. ^ Adelson, Jeff (December 17, 2015). "New Orleans City Council votes 6-1 to remove Confederate monuments". The New Orleans Advocate. Retrieved 17 December 2015. 
  21. ^ "No. 2:15-cv-06905-CJB-DEK" (PDF). E.D. La. December 17, 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 18, 2015.  Plaintiffs: Monumental Task Committee, Inc., Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, Inc., and Beauregard Camp, No. 130, Inc.
  22. ^ Katherine, Sayre (December 18, 2015). "New Orleans won't remove Confederate statues before court hearing". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 19 December 2015. 
  23. ^ "Baton Rouge contractor receives death threats, backs out of NOLA monument removal". WAFB. January 14, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2017. 
  24. ^ Williams, Jessica (January 15, 2017). "'Death threats,' 'threatening calls' prompt firm tasked with removing Confederate monuments to quit". The Advocate. Retrieved May 22, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Man Hired To Remove Confederate Monuments In New Orleans Has $200,000 Lamborghini Torched". The Huffington Post. 2016-01-20. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  26. ^ Ng, Alfred (January 20, 2017). "Louisiana contractor's $200,000 Lamborghini burned down after backing out of bid to remove Confederate monuments from New Orleans". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 22, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Bill filed in Legislature to prevent takedowns of Confederate monuments | State Politics". Theadvocate.com. 2016-03-08. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  28. ^ "Looks Like Beth Mizell's Monument-Protection Bill Is Dead, For Now". thehayride.com. Retrieved April 2, 2016. 
  29. ^ "City must leave Confederate monuments in place while case is appealed, 5th U.S. Circuit Court rules | State Politics". Theadvocate.com. 2016-03-28. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  30. ^ "Federal judge allows New Orleans to proceed with Confederate monument removal". Nola.com. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  31. ^ Monumental Task Committiee, Inc. v. Foxx, 157 F.Supp.3d 573 (E.D.La., 2016)
  32. ^ Julia O'Donoghue (2016-03-30). "Confederate monuments debate delayed in Louisiana Legislature". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  33. ^ Trimble, Megan (2016-04-06). "Bill to block removal of Confederate monuments rejected". Bigstory.ap.org. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  34. ^ "Bill to stop removal Confederate monuments dies in state House". Wwltv.com. 2016-04-14. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  35. ^ "Bill to block removal of New Orleans Confederate monuments fails in House panel; now what? | Legislature". Theadvocate.com. 2016-04-19. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  36. ^ "Tie vote stalls bill to protect Confederate monuments". SunHerald. 2016-04-14. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  37. ^ Monumental Task Committiee, Inc. v. Chao, No. 16-30107. (5th Cir., 2017)
  38. ^ "Likely last hurdle cleared, New Orleans expected to move quickly to remove Confederate monuments | Courts". Theadvocate.com. 2017-03-06. Retrieved 2017-04-05. 
  39. ^ http://www.theadvocate.com/new_orleans/news/article_cc3b196e-3c28-11e7-97aa-ef4297dddb6a.html
  40. ^ MacCash, Doug (18 May 2017). "Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee statue coming down Friday morning, city announces". The Times-Picayune. New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 19 May 2017. 
  41. ^ Nola.com
  42. ^ The Advocate
  43. ^ Robertson, Campbell (19 May 2017). "From Lofty Perch, New Orleans Monument to Confederacy Comes Down". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2017. 
  44. ^ Sayre, Katherine (22 May 2017). "Read Mayor Mitch Landrieu's speech on removing New Orleans' Confederate monuments". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 23 May 2017. 
  45. ^ Pilkington, Ed (May 22, 2017). "Mississippi lawmaker calls for lynchings after removal of Confederate symbols". The Guardian. Retrieved May 22, 2017. 
  46. ^ Pettus, Emily Wagster (May 22, 2017). "Mississippi lawmaker apologizes for calling for lynching". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved May 22, 2017. 

Further reading[edit]