New Orleans has begun removing Confederate monuments with private funds, after legal challenges over the move have been resolved.
The structures being removed include a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee that has towered over the city from atop a 60-foot marble column since in 1884. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
Statues of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard and CSA President Jefferson Davis are coming down as well; the Liberty Monument is already gone.
A lawsuit filed in federal court by the Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Foundation for Historical Louisiana, and Beauregard Camp, No. 130, a chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans kept Lee atop Lee Circle for more than a year but removal work began early Monday.
“This is the right thing to do and now is the time to do it,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement last year. “Moving the location of these monuments — from prominent public places in our city where they are revered to a place where they can be remembered — changes only their geography, not our history. These monuments will be preserved until an appropriate place to permanently display them, such as a museum or a park, is determined.”
The action mirrors discussions and efforts throughout the South, including Atlanta, aimed at dispensing with Confederate imagery following a racially motivated mass shooting in South Carolina.
In July 2015, the month after the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston that killed nine black worshipers, the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP called for the Confederate engraving to be sandblasted off the side of Stone Mountain.
“It is time for Georgia and other Southern states to end the glorification of slavery and white supremacy paid for and maintained with the taxes of all its citizens,” the chapter said in a statement at the time. “NAACP Atlanta chapter is calling for the immediate removal of all Confederate Memorial Monuments maintained by the state of Georgia using taxpayer money.”
That proposal didn’t gain much traction.