“By every appliance of literature and art, we must show to all coming ages that with us, at least, there dwells no sense of guilt,” The Daily Picayune wrote at the time.
The roundabout in which the monument stood became known as Lee Circle, a city landmark where countless Mardi Gras parade floats made the rounds and untold numbers of New Orleanians passed by routinely on their way downtown.
The towering column as well as the base on which the statue stood will remain, and the city announced that “public art” would be displayed. The Davis statue, the city also announced, will be replaced by an American flag.
As for the statues themselves, the city is taking proposals from “nonprofits and governmental entities,” with the aim that they be put in “their proper historical context from a dark period of American history.”
Mr. Landrieu elaborated in a speech on Friday afternoon.
“To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past, it is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future,” he said. “History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it.”
Tensions ran high at all the removals; supporters and opponents often descending into shouting matches and, occasionally, punches. But by early Friday, even before the operation was underway, the crowd was almost festive. Brass bands played, radios blasted pop standbys, people skipped rope and the police sought relief from the heat in a walk-in beer cooler at a nearby convenience store.
Then a little after 6 p.m., the general was plucked off. John Calhoun, a 43-year-old local auctioneer and improbably named advocate of removal, stared at Lee dangling in the air.
“It happened just like that,” he said.
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