Thursday, March 1, 2007

Forgotten History

New Orleans has a better historical memory than any other American city, but it is still a selective memory. There are certain parts of our history we try to forget.

For example, One Shell Square now sits on what was once one of the largest slave markets in the New World. There's nothing about that on the internet. I learned that one back at Larry Powell's History of New Orleans class.

Liberty Monument is one of those things people would prefer to forget about. There have been numerous battles to take the monument down. Defenders of the monument say it's a part of history and serves as an example of the people opposition to tyrrany. Hey, even I'd love to launch a Coup D'Etat against our current crop of political leaders (from Shrub all the way down to little ole' Nagin). Detractors point out the battle was fought over integration and is racist. The monument was changed some years ago to include the names of the members of the biracial police force who lost their lives in the battle. It was also moved to a less prominent location.

I decided to go hunting for the monument on my way home from work today. It is NOT easy to find. I had a good idea of where it was and I know the area extremely well. I thought for a time that the monument had finally been taken down. But no, it's still there.

The weather was bleak. The photos, even though they were just taken with the little one on my phone, came out terrific. Just played around with the color a little and the look foreboding.

Here is exactly where it is. Like I said before, it's not easy to find.

Here's some more forgotten New Orleans history:
Mark Essex, the hotel sniper. I remember sitting in Cafe Envie on Decatur a few days ago listening to two of the older cops speak about him in hushed voices. Even all these years later, he gives them nightmares. The forgotten heroes of that night.

Robert Charles and New Orleans' forgotten race riot. I remember Walker Percy mentioning in Signposts in a Strange Land that New Orleans has never had a race riot. I've also heard others mention it as a symbol that, while race relations have been frosty, they've never boiled over into a race riot. They were all wrong.


Leigh C. said...

I used to see that monument a lot when I was dropping stuff off at RHINO in Canal Place. I was chagrined to see that it was still there after al these years, but, sadly, I wasn't surprised.

Maybe that would be a great irreversible prank for some engineering students to pull. Sneak on down there in the darkest of nights and remove the thing...

Ryan Waldron said...

I think it is a shame that the monument was hidden. Its glory in the roundabout for the streetcars at the foot of canal Street I fear will never be restored. The fact that the White League fought in the battle does not make the battle inherently racist. The federal government was denying its citizens their second ammendment rights. This is the sort of thing that should happen. Governements SHOULD fear their people. Those men did the right thing in fighting for... well... Liberty.

Clay said...

The White League fought to keep black people oppressed, period. Everything else is just window dressing.

Those arguments are like saying the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Yeah, you could be hairsplittingly legalistic, but in the end, you're only fooling yourself.