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Loyola Professor Joins Panel on History of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans

Loyola press release - July 22, 2015

Four leading area historians provide historical context behind four Confederate monuments slated for removal by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Loyola University New Orleans history professor Justin Nystrom, Ph.D., joins leading area historians on Thursday for a panel that examines the history and future of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans that have been targeted for relocation or removal by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

“The recent public debate over the future of Confederate symbols has been paralleled by a similar discussion among academic historians of 19th century America,” Nystrom said. “Our goal with this forum is to share our expertise in the field in order to provide greater historical context to the four monuments that Mayor Landrieu would have removed. All of us agree that the story of the Civil War Era is important to New Orleans, but I think each of us approach the matter from a slightly different perspective.”

“Monumental Decisions: Confederate Memorials in the 21st Century” will take place from 6 to 8 p.m., on Thursday, July 23, at the Louisiana Humanities Center, 938 Lafayette St. in the Central Business District. The event is free and open to the public. It is hosted by Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine. Space is limited and organizers suggest guests arrive early.

Nystrom is co-director of the Center for the Study of New Orleans, based at Loyola. He also serves as director of Loyola’s Documentary and Oral History Studio.

In addition to Nystrom, Thursday’s panel will include: Laura Rosanne Adderley, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Tulane University; Molly Mitchell, Ph.D., professor of early American history at the University of New Orleans; and Greg Osborn, associate at the New Orleans Public Library. David Johnson, editor of the quarterly magazine of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, will serve as the moderator.

The panelists will discuss the history and debated fate of the statues of General Robert E. Lee, General P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis, along with the obelisk marking the location of the 1874 Battle of Liberty Place.

"Mayor Landrieu's call to remove these four monuments has sparked a debate about what should and should not be commemorated in the city's public spaces today. This forum focuses on the historical context of how places like Lee Circle and Jefferson Davis Parkway came into being," Nystrom said.

Historians will examine the significance of these military and political leaders to the city of New Orleans and the motivation behind the financing and construction of their memorials. Topics to be discussed include: a chronology of the Reconstruction-era Battle of Liberty Place, including the ongoing controversy surrounding its memorialization. Efforts taken by other cities and nations to address the reinterpretation or removal of contentious monuments will also be addressed.

"More than 150 years after the truce at Appomattox Court House, the display of Confederate monuments and iconography from across the South remains a heated topic," Johnson said in a press release from the LEH.

“What is often lacking from this impassioned debate is the historical context that allows for informed opinions about public spaces and the veneration of events and individuals from the past. The humanities provide a civil framework to discuss the memory and long-term ramifications of the Civil War."