The Battle of Liberty Place Monument in the Late 20th Century

Stop 4 of 4 in the Battle of Liberty Place tour

As news of the Liberty Place Commission's ceremonial annual dinners began to fade from the Times Picayune, the monument continued to make the news occasionally as it became a site of protest.

In 1970, the Times-Picayune noted that the monument "carried a defacing smudge of black pitch or paint on it." After numerous protests by black political activists in the early 1970's, Mayor Moon Landrieu's administration attempted to solve the problem by placing an explanatory plaque next to the historical marker which read,

"Although the 'Battle of Liberty Place' and this monument are important parts of New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans."

This gesture satisfied almost no one. In 1976, the NAACP Youth Council requested the monument's removal, while some decried the plaque as "historical revisionism." Furthermore, modern white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan began to see the memorial as a rallying point for planned marches and demonstrations.

In 1981, the monument nearly left public view at Mayor Ernest "Dutch" Morial's order, sparking a new round of public discussion and protest. Ultimately, the City Council blocked any move or alteration, and the monument remained on Canal Street, although partially hidden behind tall bushes.

The monument left public view in 1989, reportedly for safe keeping, amidst construction on Canal Street. Mayor Sidney Barthelemy pledged to return the marker, though his administration missed the originally stated date for its replacement. The structure stayed in storage until February 1993, when a movement led by David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, sued for its return. To the chagrin of many residents, the city obliged but moved the obelisk off of Canal Street to its present site in the curve of Iberville Street, between railroad tracks and the entrance to a parking garage.

In addition to planting the marker in a less obtrusive location, the city removed the plaque championing white supremacy and affixed a new plaque commemorating the Metropolitan Police casualties, several of whom were African-American. Still, heated protests led to a number of arrests at the monument's rededication, including State Representative Avery Alexander, who was 82 years old at the time.

Since no museums have offered to house the memorial, it remains in its secluded spot and has fallen out of the public discourse in recent years. Vandals have removed four small pillars in the midsection of the monument, and graffiti is often found on its plaques.

Images

"Hitler Fest," 1985

"Hitler Fest," 1985

White supremacists used the monument as a rallying place for demonstrations. A special city committee charged with deciding the monument's future collected this leaflet, among other items. The committee, which included several New Orleans college professors, concluded that the monument had become a nuisance and a site of hateful protest and argued that it should be removed from the street. View File Details Page

Rev. Avery Alexander

Rev. Avery Alexander

Civil Rights activist and Louisiana State Representative Rev. Avery Alexander, 82, is restrained by police at a March 3, 1993 rally at the monument soon after it had been brought out of storage, but placed a couple of blocks from its formerly prominent site. Courtesy of The Times-Picayune View File Details Page

Liberty Place Monument Graffiti, circa 2004

Liberty Place Monument Graffiti, circa 2004

New Orleans anarchists defaced the monument the night before White Supremacist David Duke planned to hold a memorial ceremony. Matt Toups, New Orleans Independent Media Center View File Details Page

Graffiti, Liberty Place monument ca. 2004

Graffiti, Liberty Place monument ca. 2004

Matt Toups, New Orleans Independent Media Center View File Details Page

Graffiti on the monument in 2012

Graffiti on the monument in 2012

The Liberty Monument defaced in early 2012. "For Wendell Allen" is a reference to the death of a man who was shot by a police officer on March 7, 2012. Courtesy of The Times-Picayune View File Details Page

Additional Inscription

Additional Inscription

The names of the Metropolitan Police officers killed during the battle and a new statement regarding the battle's meaning were added before the monument was installed in its new location. View File Details Page

Audio

Dr. Raphael Cassimere interview #1

Dr. Raphael Cassimere, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of New Orleans, was already a leading figure among the NAACP when he became involved in protests at the Liberty Place Monument in the 1970's. View File Details Page

Dr. Raphael Cassimere, Interview #2

View File Details Page

Dr. Lawrence Powell

Dr. Lawrence Powell, Emeritus Professor of History at Tulane Univeristy, discusses how his involvement in discussing the fate of the monument led to his participation in a broader counter-movement against white supremacist groups led by David Duke. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Gordon Chadwick, “The Battle of Liberty Place Monument in the Late 20th Century,” New Orleans Historical, accessed March 30, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/283.
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