Nearly a year after removing four Confederate monuments in 2017, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has announced the "public process" to determine what should replace the statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle.
For now, the city will "perform beautification work" at the sites of the P.G.T. Beauregard and Lee statues. The pedestal that held Beauregard will be removed, and the column on which Lee's statue stood will remain at the site.
The city also will plant an American flag at the site of the Jefferson Davis statue in Mid-City. The space behind the Canal Place parking garage that housed the statue honoring the so-called Battle of Liberty Place will remain empty.
will work with City Hall through fall 2018 to "organize, design, facilitate, implement, and document the process to ensure that New Orleans residents can help recommend how these public spaces are redeveloped," according to an announcement from Landrieu's office. That process is funded by the Ford Foundation.
Colloqate Design's Paper Monuments
— which has hosted several events discussing the impacts of symbols and images in public spaces, and how those spaces can better represent the people sharing them — will lead those discussions. Foundation for Louisiana will have an update on that process by the end of June, after which Paper Monuments and the foundation will provide monthly updates.
As for where the statues will go, the city will not issue a request for proposals soliciting possible locations — Landrieu will hand that off to the incoming mayoral and City Council administrations.
"The Landrieu administration will defer to the next Mayor and City Council on recommending future locations of the four removed monuments," the statement says. "Currently, the monuments are crated and being stored in City-owned warehouses or secure facilities."
All four statues were removed over several weeks beginning in April 2017 with the Liberty Place statue
. The monument to Lee was removed last, on May 19, while Landrieu delivered a nationally recognized speech denouncing historical revisionism leading up to and in the wake of the statues' construction, while challenging leaders around the U.S. to reconsider the kinds of monuments that should be erected to accurately reflect those histories.
Following several public hearings and debates, the New Orleans City Council voted to remove the statues in December 2015
. Legal challenges from monument supporters were struck down in federal court.
“Over the last few years, momentum has gained across our nation to have a long overdue discussion on the appropriateness of confederate monuments in our communities, and New Orleans was at the forefront of this recent movement," Landrieu said in a statement. "We must never forget that these monuments celebrate the 'Lost Cause of the Confederacy,' that they are a perversion of history — placed in prominent locations in our communities to paint a false narrative of our shared history. While it is hard for people to see that truth, the history is clear — the four statues we removed in New Orleans were erected to blind us from what really happened. These statues were not designed to honor Robert E. Lee, P.G.T Beauregard, Jefferson Davis, or the Battle of Liberty Place; but to perpetuate the Jim Crow era of terror and disenfranchisement. These four statues sent a crystal clear message about who was still in control, notwithstanding the fact that the Confederacy lost the war."
Landrieu also alluded to the heightened, often-violent rhetoric and white supremacist support surrounding the monuments as the city began the removal process, "glimpses of hate that many of us believed were from a bygone era of segregation and division, but in the end, truth prevailed," Landrieu said.
"The courts ruled in our favor, and we did what many thought impossible," he said. "I am proud we were able to finish what so many before us had worked so long and so hard to accomplish. We will never forget their courage to challenge the status quo and call for the monuments' removal. Their sacrifice laid a strong foundation for our actions.”