While walking from the Aquarium to Canal Place I found a monument oddly stuck on a sidewalk in the bend of the road leading to The Shops at Canal Place parking garage. Why would anyone put a statue there?
What you spotted was the controversial Liberty Place Monument, which was erected in 1891 at the head of Canal Street on a small neutral ground that was named Liberty Place in honor of some of the people who fought in the Battle of Liberty Place.
During Reconstruction, while the nation recovered from the Civil War and worked to reunify and reestablish order, there was still dissidence in the South. On Sept. 14, 1874, the Democratic Conservative White League attacked the Republican Metropolitan Police to stop Reconstruction efforts in Louisiana and to take control of New Orleans.
In a battle that killed more than 30 people from both sides, the White Leaguers defeated the police and deposed Gov. William Pitt Kellogg. Their victory was short-lived, however. President Ulysses S. Grant ordered Kellogg's reinstatement three days later. Nonetheless, the White League wanted to commemorate its victory with the monument.
In 1932, Mayor T. Semmes Walmsley appointed a commission of 28 members, descendants of men who fought for white supremacy, to maintain the Liberty Place Monument on Canal Street and to preserve the memory of those for whom the monument was erected. At that time, the Crescent City White League added inscriptions of the names of the leaders of the battle.
In 1974, some locals said the monument was a racist symbol and demanded its removal. In response, Mayor Moon Landrieu's administration placed a marker at the monument that explained that the city's philosophies were not those of the leaders inscribed on the monument.
Two years later, contention arose again when some, including the NAACP Youth Council, wanted the monument removed. Others felt that would be an affront to history. In 1981, Mayor Ernest "Dutch" Morial attempted to remove the monument, but the City Council overruled him.
Because of street repairs and construction on Canal Street, the monument was relocated to a storage facility in 1989. Some public office holders were content with leaving the statue there, but federal funds were used for the street improvements and the law stipulated that the monument had to be returned to a historically accurate location.
Mayor Sidney Barthelemy's administration pledged to return the monument, but it was not done quickly enough for state Rep. David Duke, R-Metairie, a former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who unsuccessfully ran for Louisiana governor in 1991. One of Duke's supporters, a New Orleans pharmacist named Francis J. Shubert, was a descendant of one of the men who fought at the Battle of Liberty Place. Shubert sued the city, the state and the federal government for the monument's return.
In 1993, the monument was relocated off Canal Street at its present location.
The city removed the plaque that honored white supremacy and added a new plaque that commemorates those who died while fighting with the integrated Metropolitan Police. The statue also reads, "A Conflict of the Past that Should Teach Us Lessons for the Future."