Jefferson Davis Monument Removed in New Orleans

Over night Jefferson Davis died a second death as crews removed his monument in New Orleans [see video here]. The monument honored the president of a nation whose primary goal was the protection and expansion of slavery. That leaves two monuments, one honoring Robert E. Lee and the other P.G.T. Beauregard.

Unfortunately, the bubble wrap used to protect the monument gives the appearance that Davis is wearing a dress. It is a reminder of the stories that appeared following his capture on May 10, 1865 that Davis was wearing women’s clothing in an effort to hide from Union authorities.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu explains his decision in today’s Washington Post.

The record is clear: New Orleans’s Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were erected with the goal of rewriting history to glorify the Confederacy and perpetuate the idea of white supremacy. These monuments stand not as mournful markers of our legacy of slavery and segregation, but in reverence of it. They are an inaccurate recitation of our past, an affront to our present and a poor prescription for our future.

With all four monuments removed this will be the most dramatic change to a major city’s commemorative landscape.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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45 comments… add one
  • Hans Richardt Kall Schmidt-Nielsen May 12, 2017 @ 17:36

    Is it not rewriting history to remove these monuments ( or monuments in general) ? I totally understand the city’s desire and need to distance itself from slavery and the confederacy, especially in the current climate and I see the reason not to have Jefferson Davis standing as a constant reminder of slavery in the middle of a major city. but what about less eye-catching examples of the Souths past? E.g. the discussion about removing the remains of Bedford Forrest. A controversial figure yes, but his skeleton is hardly something that offends people on a daily basis. It seems to me to be a slippery slope to remove or hide signs of a nations past,just because they are uncomfortable or embarrassing today – 150 years later. I am not trying to sound like a confederate apologist btw. Just some thought from a dane : )

    • Kristoffer May 13, 2017 @ 8:02

      “Is it not rewriting history to remove these monuments ( or monuments in general) ?”

      Not at all. History won’t be going anywhere just because repugnant monuments are being removed. As for Forrest, where he is currently buried is not where he wanted to be buried. He was originally buried where he wanted to be, but the city moved him to his current location to attract tourists. The slippery slope is defined as a logical fallacy for a good reason, namely that it does not automatically happen.

      Here’s some good reading:
      “What’s happening in New Orleans was criticized. Anti-monument people here were accused of “wanting to erase history.” And there was an iteration of what has become a cliche, that people who don’t know history will repeat it. That argument suggests that the monuments are a kind of tangible cautionary tale: that they were put up to warn would-be secessionists not to secede. But they were actually erected to celebrate the secessionists. So it’s unclear what history we’d be at risk of repeating if they were removed.”

      “But not outside a courthouse. Nobody entering a courthouse should have to see a monument glorifying the Confederacy, a monument that glorifies the army that fought for the preservation and expansion of slavery. Everything about a courthouse – from its policies to its art – should suggest that everybody will get a fair hearing. Few things communicate partiality as strongly as a celebration of the Confederates.
      So if Shreveport insists that they’ve just got to have a Confederate monument – which is a sad and pathetic argument to make – they should at least have the decency to remove it from its place of prominence at the courthouse. And they should remove it for the same reason that they lowered an actual Confederate flag in recent years. It sends the wrong message to people seeking justice.”

  • Nancy Sypolt May 11, 2017 @ 19:04

    My Father is 99yrs.old..He is a WWII Veteran. The men who fought and died for the freedoms we have today. The taking down of war monuments is in violation of these freedoms.

    • Kristoffer May 12, 2017 @ 5:16

      There is no freedom in the institution of war monuments. My grandfather and many great-uncles served in WWII, but none of them were fighting to preserve any monuments, let alone monuments to leaders of an intrinsically racist and treasonous rebellion. Despite this, I would like to see Beauregard’s monument replaced with a new monument to Beauregard as a civilian, as Wetherington stated here:

    • Msb May 12, 2017 @ 13:32

      What does your father’s service to the country have to do with the removal of a monument to the leader of a rebellion? Or a monument to a racist riot?

  • Gerald Wayne Fontenot May 11, 2017 @ 18:42

    Kevin your understanding of Southern History is laughable at best.

    • Kevin Levin May 12, 2017 @ 3:07

      I am at least pleased that I bring some joy to your day. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Bryce Hartranft May 11, 2017 @ 16:17

    “The monument honored the president of a nation whose primary goal was the protection and expansion of slavery.”

    I still struggle with how to criticize the Confederacy. Of course slavery was/is abhorrent, but if support of slavery is the measuring stick, then how do Washington and Jefferson avoid censure?

    I imagine you will say that they don’t avoid censure. They are mixed historical figures who should be remembered with the good and the bad.

    Then why can’t we do the same with Jefferson Davis? I imagine you will say that these statues are different because of the racist intentions of those who erected them. How much of America was erected by racist individuals though?

    This is not an argument on whether to keep the statues or not (I support whatever decision the locally elected legislative body makes) but rather my own musings.

    • Kevin Levin May 11, 2017 @ 16:27

      I think the important point is that it was the primary goal of the Confederacy. It was the reason it was established in the first place.

      • Bryce Hartranft May 11, 2017 @ 16:42

        I don’t think it is too far of a stretch to say 1776 America was founded as a slave republic either. TJ and the DoI slavery grievance, etc.

        Is not the better criticism of the Confederates that they were traitors? This is defensible on the grounds that Confederates had representation in the legislature unlike unlike 18th century Patriots.

        • Kevin Levin May 11, 2017 @ 16:46

          I certainly do not want to diminish the place of slavery within the Constitution in 1787, but it is also the case that many of the Founders hoped that slavery would eventually end and they believed that it would be through Constitution that this would happen. The Confederate government was structured in a way that placed slavery as its “cornerstone.”

          • Bryce Hartranft May 12, 2017 @ 3:40

            My argument runs out of steam here as I do not have proof, but I would wager that you could find some Confederates who “hoped that slavery would eventually end” as well.

            My ultimate question is whether we use the Confederacy as our whipping boy to escape the guilt of our own deep and systematic use of slavery to create this nation? We don’t have to feel bad because “they” are the bad guys.

            • Kevin Levin May 12, 2017 @ 5:22

              …but I would wager that you could find some Confederates who “hoped that slavery would eventually end” as well.

              I don’t doubt that you can find a wide range of opinion on the issue of slavery within the Confederacy, but that is quite different from the principles that structure the government and its constitution. You would have to find a moment other than the enlistment debate where individuals and organizations were calling for the end of slavery.

        • Kristoffer May 11, 2017 @ 17:44

          The USA was not founded on the primary goal of slavery. Al Mackey did a good debunking of this myth here:
          In addition, the Declaration of Independence’s slavery grievance was about King George III inciting slave insurrections, not about anything directly impacting the institution of slavery itself.

          • Bryce Hartranft May 12, 2017 @ 4:05

            I admit discerning the true “goals” of the founding fathers is debatable, but I do not think one can discount the very real fact that America (north and south) used and greatly benefited slavery for nearly a century.

            As for the DoI slavery grievance, its actual wording or intent to me are far less important to me than how it was interpreted and thus stricken from the document (i.e. dropped to retain slave holding states in the Confederation).

            • Kevin Levin May 12, 2017 @ 5:22

              No one is denying that the nation benefited from slavery, but that has nothing to do with the point that I was trying to make earlier.

        • Al Mackey May 11, 2017 @ 19:48

          There’s a fundamental difference between a slave republic and a republic with slavery. The United States was formed as a republic with slavery. That means it was primarily formed as a republic and happened to have slavery as a part of it.

          The confederacy was formed as a slave republic. Slavery gave it its meaning. Slavery was its raison d’etre. Without slavery there would have been no confederacy. The same cannot be said for the United States.

          • Bryce Hartranft May 12, 2017 @ 4:08

            I do not disagree with you. Once again, however, I would suggest that the reality of America’s use of slavery for many decades overrides these semantics. Bottom line, a slave in 19th century America may find less solace in the difference between a slave republic and republic with slavery than we do.

            • Al Mackey May 12, 2017 @ 18:52

              An enslaved person in the nation with slavery that was the United States who happened to be in Massachusetts in 1783 would find great solace in the difference, because in July of that year, slavery was ruled unconstitutional in that state and that enslaved person was then freed. Such a thing could not happen in a slave nation.

              In the 19th Century, an enslaved person living in Missouri could take solace when that state abolished slavery. An enslaved person living in Maryland could take solace when that state abolished slavery. That could happen in a nation with slavery. It would not happen in a slave nation.

              In the 19th Century the enslaved people who were freed on an almost daily basis from August of 1861 onward could take solace in the fact the United States was a nation with slavery instead of a slave nation.

          • Forester May 15, 2017 @ 11:28

            Question for either Al Mackey or Kevin: could a state leave the Confederacy if they wanted to?

            My understanding has always been that while the Confederate constitution forbid any law “denying or impairing” slavery, the states were still free to go independent or rejoin the USA if they wanted to.

            At least, that’s how I always rationalized it.

            • Al Mackey May 15, 2017 @ 13:24

              The United States took the position the confederacy was illegal and any state could withdraw from it and return to its loyalty to the United States, but not to become an independent state.

              As to the confederate position, we will never know.

        • Msb May 12, 2017 @ 3:34

          I think Benjamin Franklin and other founders, such as a John Adams, would say that it’s way too much of a stretch. Franklin founded the first US antislavery society and Jefferson (yes, slaveholder) tried to include the introduction of slavery into the colonies as one of the crimes of the British monarchy in the Declaration of Independence. And Adams supported that.

          • Bryce Hartranft May 12, 2017 @ 4:13

            Any words of Jefferson’s are hollow when held next to his holdings of hundreds of slaves.

            As for the founding fathers who were truly anti-slavery, their attitudes towards the institution still do not counteract the reality of America’s use of slavery for many decades.

            To refer back to my comment to Mr. Levin, is our scorn for the Confederacy a deflection away from America’s deficiencies?

            • Kristoffer May 12, 2017 @ 6:29

              I can just as easily reverse your question: is your scorn for the USA a deflection away from the Confederacy’s deficiencies?

            • Msb May 12, 2017 @ 7:36

              No. It’s an ability to draw meaningful distinctions.
              Of course slaves could tell the difference between the South and the North. That’s why so many of them endured so much to escape to the latter from the former. And why 2000,000 African Americans served in the Union army, despite the Northern racism they had to face.

    • Kristoffer May 11, 2017 @ 17:38

      I agree with Kevin’s response to you. In addition, Washington did not end his life as a supporter of slavery. Here are a couple of links about Washington:

  • Sally HemingsKid May 11, 2017 @ 15:14

    Why is it “unfortunate” that it looks like Davis is wearing a dress? Some gender theory analysis is needed to unpack the implicit models of masculinities that surround notions of military leadership.

    • Kevin Levin May 11, 2017 @ 15:16

      I was speaking loosely.

    • Forester May 14, 2017 @ 9:05

      I took Kevin’s words to mean that the bubble wrap looking like a dress was unintentional and reflected no intention of the crew to invoke gender-based mockery. And that it was “unfortunate” that the photo makes the crew appear to be engaging in outdated, sexist humor.

      At least that’s how I read it.

      • Kevin Levin May 14, 2017 @ 10:19

        Definitely unintentional on the part of the workers unless they sat through a history of Davis before getting to work that day.

        • Forester May 14, 2017 @ 10:57

          Maybe it’s the Confederate version of the abortion laws: you have to be shown a video about the statue before you’re allowed to remove it. 😉

  • jclark82 May 11, 2017 @ 6:22

    I noticed that they started removing the Jeff Davis Statue on May 10, which is 152 years to the day after his capture in Georgia.

    Not a good day for him!

    • Erik May 12, 2017 @ 9:44

      It’s interesting that both this and the Lib Place monument came down on significant dates/days. Will have to check the calendar for the next Bob Lee and PGT Beau dates of significance.

  • David McCallister May 11, 2017 @ 5:31

    There you have it folks – Cultural Genocide before our eyes –

    Check out


    Bullet point from Factor No. 7 of the Analysis of the Framework for the Analysis of Genocide:

    “• The destruction of or attacks on cultural and religious property and symbols of the
    targeted group that may be designed to annihilate the historic presence of the
    group or groups;”

    What if Mitch Landrieu were to be prosecuted as a criminal by the UN, along with his Antifa, BLM, NAACP, SPLC henchmen? Would they be guilty?

    • Kevin Levin May 11, 2017 @ 5:42

      With all due respect, this is ridiculous.

      • David McCallister May 11, 2017 @ 9:14

        Really, Kevin? Somehow I’m not laughing.
        When you have to do something in the dead of night with masks on and guns around, you know you are doing something wrong.

        • Kevin Levin May 11, 2017 @ 9:18

          Look, you may not like the decision and you certainly have every right to voice your protest, but the initial decision was made by the city council in 2015. The residents of New Orleans have the right to voice their concerns for the relevant public officials through their vote. To suggest that this is “cultural genocide” does nothing to further this issue.

          I suspect the decision to remove these monuments at night was done for safety reasons. Given the threats that have been issued the decision to wear masks is understandable, though unfortunate.

    • Andy Hall May 11, 2017 @ 6:05

      You should contact them and make your concerns known:

      United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect
      Address: New York, USA
      Telephone: +1 917 367 2589
      Twitter account: @UN_GP_RtoP

      Alternatively, you could pursue this through the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley.

      Please report back and let us know what they say.

    • jclark82 May 11, 2017 @ 6:19

      Nope, this isn’t cultural genocide. No one’s going to forget the confederacy or the Civil War by removing these monuments. It means that New Orleans will no longer celebrate the confederate cause, which is a big difference.

      Good riddance.

    • Forester May 11, 2017 @ 7:36

      David McCallister would be correct if the government was removing them from private property or peoples’ homes. But that’s not happening. If you wanted to put a statue on your lawn of Davis, you could.

      This is a matter of the elected government removing something from PUBLIC property, which is within their legal right to do. I’m not in favor of removing them either, but it’s hardly “genocide.”

      Why should your heritage be forced on everyone else?

      • Jim Keeley May 12, 2017 @ 5:45

        I will bet you a bag of nuts that your local city, town, or whatever, has an ordinance that would prevent putting anything on the property that is deemed offensive.

        • Forester May 14, 2017 @ 8:50

          Not that I know of. People are allowed to fly the Confederate flag in Norfolk if they want to. I know of one neighborhood that has three on the same street, and one house that I’ve never seen without one since 1996. I’m not saying they SHOULD, just acknowledging that they do. And it’s legal.

          If Norfolk does have a law, they’ve never enforced it. Also, we have a downtown Confederate monument which was voted to stay in 2015, and there are a LOT of Confederate graves here. A new Confederate statue was installed at a cemetery in 2007, not too far from the William Carney USCT monument (its a very balanced place). And it’s not because Norfolk is backwards or conservative; it’s actually a liberal and urbane college town with a black Mayor.

          I see no evidence of cultural genocide or any attacks on anyone’s heritage. Just needless fear and reactionary nonsense.

    • Bradley Greenberg May 12, 2017 @ 10:28

      By the definition you use, this is not Cultural Genocide. The statue is not cultural in its nature.. It is a work of commemoration–not art. Works of art are meant to be contemplated and TEND to be lower to the ground so that people can study and interact with it. The people that commissioned and built this statue did not want one to interact with it and think about it: they wanted you to look up to him.

      It is not a religious symbol for obvious reasons.

      Removal of commemorative statues of confederates from publicly owned spaces, especially those of people that had little to no connection to the cities their statue is in, is not an attempt to annihilate all traces of the Confederacy. There are places (many publicly funded) where one can go and study the Confederacy in New Orleans (or many other cities that were in the former Confederacy), walk where they walked and fought, talk where they talked, and examine what life was like at that time.

  • Rob Baker May 11, 2017 @ 4:56

    This is a very interesting series of events. I haven’t been following it too closely, just through your’s, Brook’s, and other people’s blogs. Any word on what will happen to the monuments? A monuments yard, private collector, or museum?

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