Take ‘Em Down NOLA Says Andrew Jackson’s Statue Must Go
Updated on Sep 17, 2016
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com
Take ‘Em Down NOLA, a grassroots group opposed to the prevalence of New Orleans monuments honoring white supremacists, remains frustrated that more than 8 months after the City Council voted to remove four monuments , those monuments remain. The group is equally frustrated that Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration – which slated the Robert E. Lee statue, the Jefferson Davis Statue, the P.G.T. Beauregard statue and the Liberty Place monument for removal – didn’t make a push to remove all the city’s statues celebrating white supremacy.
To demonstrate its frustrations at the pace of progress and the limited scope of the city’s plan to address the problem, Take ‘Em Down NOLA plans to march to the Andrew Jackson statue in Jackson Square Sept. 24 with ropes in hand. That plan was announced by member Malcolm Suber at Take ‘Em Down NOLA’s Thursday night (Sept. 15) meeting and it was reiterated by speakers who followed him.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the city of New Orleans as soon as the City Council approved the ordinance to remove the statues celebrating Lee, Davis, Beauregard and the White League. The plaintiffs also convinced a court to impose a temporary injunction to stop the city from proceeding with its plan to remove the monuments it has labeled nuisances. On top of that, some of the contractors who displayed interest in the removal contract were pressured – pressured to the point of being threatened with death – not to take the job.
Michael “Quess” Moore, who has been one of the most vocal leaders of Take ‘Em Down NOLA, began Thursday night’s meeting by reading from remarks Malcolm X made in 1962. How was it that the public schools were still segregated, the Nation of Islam leader wanted to know, when the Supreme Court had unanimously outlawed segregation in the public schools in 1954?
An 8-year delay is 12 times longer than one of 8 months, but Moore’s point wasn’t that not enough time had transpired for the monuments to have come down. His point was that sitting back and waiting for progress isn’t profitable, that change requires action. More than 50 years after Malcolm X pointed out that the schools were still segregated, Moore said, our schools are still segregated. Not by law but by practice.
Suber connected black people’s fight for a quality education with the fight for the removal of the monuments. Black people’s snub of a New Orleans monument was a watershed event in the city’s history. The snubbed monument honored John McDonogh. Because the plantation owner had donated land for the city’s schools, once a year the city’s school children were expected to come to his statue and leave flowers. The black children were made to wait to pay their respects until after the white children were done. But on May 7, 1954, black people refused to show at McDonogh’s statue to stand in the back of the line.
More recently Suber said, there was Carl Galmon, who successfully led a campaign to have the names of slaveholders removed from the city’s public schools. And now Take ‘Em Down NOLA wants slave owners taken off their pedestals.
There are, I think, two important points to make here.
One, Take ‘Em Down NOLA is no fan of Mitch Landrieu’s administration or the New Orleans City Council. The city’s position is that four monuments should come down, but Take Em Down is annoyed that the city isn’t more ambitious and hasn’t proceeded more quickly.
The city has promised to preserve the monuments it removes. Suber told me in an August 2015 interview that he’d rather see them tossed into the river.
Two, one of the strongest arguments for removing the four monuments is that they celebrate people who either aren’t from New Orleans or didn’t benefit the city. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, got sick and died in New Orleans, but there’s no evidence that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was ever here. The Liberty Place monument celebrates New Orleanians who massacred the city’s integrated police force. Beauregard was from St. Bernard Parish and, after the Civil War, supported a racially integrated government, but his monument depicts him on horse back in full Confederate regalia.
Andrew Jackson, by contrast, is the key figure in the Battle of New Orleans, which saved the city from the British before both sides had received word that the War of 1812 was over.
However, Indian Country Today puts Jackson on the top of its list of worst U.S. presidents, calling him ” a genocidal maniac against the Indigenous Peoples ” and “racist against African peoples.” As a military leader Jackson attacked the Seminoles in part because they sheltered those who’d escaped slavery.
Does Jackson’s defense of New Orleans mitigate his signing the Indian Removal Act and pushing Cherokees onto the Trail of Tears?
There hasn’t been much discussion about Jackson because his statue wasn’t on the mayor’s list, but one doesn’t have to guess what defenders of his statue would say. They’ll say that it’s important to preserve history and that those favoring statue removal are attempting to erase history.
Not so, Angela Kinlaw said at Thursday’s meeting. There is a “falsified history” being projected, she said. “You can talk about history in a real way without marketing the oppressor.” New Orleans is a majority black city where monuments to white supremacists abound. “What does it say about us that we’re sitting silently and allowing it to happen?”