New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, according to nola.com’s Jarvis DeBerry, is now wondering aloud whether the many monuments to Confederate “heroes” scattered around the Big Easy have a place in the city’s future. Most prominent among them is the towering monument to General Robert E. Lee atop an obelisk in the downtown circle that bears his name.
According to Landrieu’s office: “These symbols say who we were in a particular time, but times change. Yet these symbols – statues, monuments, street names, and more – still influence who we are and how we are perceived by the world. Mayor Landrieu believes it is time to look at the symbols in this city to see if they still have relevance to our future.”
But what about Lafayette? We have several streets named after Confederate figures, Johnston Street among them, and the southwestern gateway to Downtown bears a marble monument depicting Gen. Alfred Mouton, a Confederate brigadier general who died at the battle of Mansfield in 1864. This monument stands in front of what was once Lafayette City Hall at the corner of a street named for Thomas Jefferson and Gen. Robert E. Lee.
Unveiled in 1922 by two granddaughters of Gen. Mouton who were joined by the governor of Louisiana and members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument actually predates the City Hall by more than 15 years, but it’s fair to say that Lafayette once honored — and still does passively — a man who fought and died to preserve an institution that enslaved the ancestors of nearly a quarter of Lafayette’s current population. He wasn’t fighting for states’ rights or over tariffs, as the apologists have spun it in the intervening years since 1865; he was fighting for slavery.
Is Lafayette ready to have this conversation?