Jefferson Davis monument

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Jefferson Davis monument on South Jefferson Davis Parkway and Canal Street (photo by Alicia Serrano, MidCityMessenger.com)

The Jefferson Davis monument has stood in the Jefferson Davis Parkway neutral ground at the intersection of Canal Street since 1911. It has now been deemed a nuisance by the New Orleans City Council, and its pending removal is causing protests.

Contents

History

The only President of the Confederate States of America, Davis had some direct connection to New Orleans in his twilight years. He died in 1889 in a house in New Orleans on First and Camp Streets, and his body laid in state for two years in the mausoleum of the Army of Northern Virginia, at Metairie Cemetery.

The Jefferson Davis Monument Association formed in 1898 and raised $35,000 for the 25-foot statue -- a sum of between $850,000 to $1 million in today's dollars -- including contributions from the New Orleans City Council and Mayor Martin Behrman. It was sculpted by Edward Virginius Valentine, and its pedestal was designed by Lorenzi Orsini and created by the Weiblen Marble and Granite Company.

The monument was erected and unveiled February 22, 1911, the date of the 50th anniversary of Davis’ inauguration as president of the Confederacy. Many attended the unveiling which was preceded by “an impressive military parade” led by Major Allison Owen. Veterans of the Army of Tennessee, Washington Artillery, Camp Henry St. Paul, Army of Northern Virginia, veterans from the Soldiers Home, National Guard and the Boy Scouts all attended. A group of 500 schoolgirls formed a living Confederate flag during the ceremony.

The street the statue sits on was originally named Hagan Avenue, but the name was changed in 1911 to coincide with the statue’s placement[1].

Engravings

The front of the statue is engraved with the words:

“Jefferson Davis

President Confederate States of America 1861- 1865

Soldier-Statesman-Patriot

The South seeking a leader for her highest office, chose him from among her fittest men, a profound student of the constitution; a majestic creator; in character firm; in judgment sound; in purpose resolute.”

The back of the pedestal states: “His name is enshrined in the hearts of the people for whom he suffered, and his deeds are forever wedded to immortality.”

Pending removal

In 2015, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recommended that the statue and three others (the Battle of Liberty Place monument, the Robert E. Lee statue, and a statue of General P.G.T. Beauregard ) be removed, and following hearings with the Human Rights Commission, the City Council voted to declare them nuisances.

Preservationists including the Monumental Task Committee sued the city over the decision, and the court proceedings prevented any movement on the decision for some time.

In April 2016, city crews removed the Battle of Liberty Place monument overnight, and supporters of the monuments began holding candlelight vigils guarding the Jefferson Davis statue[2]. Counter-protesters showed up soon afterward, and their conflict engulfed the nearby Holy Ground Bar.[3]

On the evening of May 1, action at the statue seemed eminent. Conflict between defenders of the statue and its opponents reached a higher pitch, and New Orleans Police Department vehicles bearing barricades arrived. Around midnight, NOPD Commander Paul Noel arrived and promised both sides that the statue would not be removed that night, lowering tensions for the time although the protests continued.[4]

Notes

  1. MidCityMessenger.com: "Who are the other Confederate soldiers honored with statues on Jefferson Davis Parkway in Mid-City?" June 29, 2015
  2. MidCityMessenger.com: "Jefferson Davis monument still standing Monday after supporters hold candlelight vigil" April 24, 2017
  3. MidCityMessenger.com: "Mid-City bar attacked on social media; Jeff Davis protestors say they were refused service" April 30, 2017
  4. MidCityMessenger.com: "Tensions flare Monday night during counter protests at Jeff Davis monument" May 2, 2017
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