It’s been more than one year since four Confederate monuments in the city of New Orleans were uprooted from their perches and driven away on the orders of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and a 6-1 vote by the New Orleans City Council.
Now, the former mayor is touring the country to explain that decision, and to battle the misconceptions and forgotten histories of slavery, race and institutional inequality in America. He will join the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club for its 40th anniversary celebration in St. Petersburg (open to the public) Thursday, Oct. 11.
After a two year battle and multiple court challenges, the statues of revered Confederate figures Robert E. Lee, P.G.T Beauregard and Jefferson Davis were not so much toppled as carefully dismantled by cranes in the middle of the night.
This bombshell decision, advocated for and overseen by Landrieu, was controversial. It opened old wounds, wounds that Landrieu said “never healed right in the first place,” and called into question the “proper” means of commemorating history. It left many New Orleans residents feeling lost, while others felt seen and found in their city for the first time.
This pivotal moment forced Landrieu to explain to the citizens of New Orleans – and ultimately the nation – why he made the choice to remove the statues, to “make straight what is crooked and make right what is wrong.” On May 19, 2017, the mayor addressed his city in a powerful speech that went viral, shared hundreds of thousands of times across multiple platforms. The New York Times‘ Frank Bruni called the speech “the masterpiece we needed at the moment we needed it.”
Click play above to watch Landrieu’s historic speech in full.
Landrieu spoke proudly of New Orleans as a melting pot, the embodiment of e pluribus unum – “out of many we are one.” But he also spoke of the oft-forgotten truths of the city’s history – slave markets, lynchings and violent resistance to civil rights and Freedom Riders. Of the Confederate monuments, he said:
“So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.
And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame … all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.”
This speech catapulted Landrieu into the national spotlight and into conversations of race throughout the country. From this experience, Landrieu wrote a New York Times bestselling book, In The Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, and was ultimately awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club will host Landrieu at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Student Center Ballroom. The evening will include a VIP meet and greet reception with Landrieu, cocktail hour, dinner, and his remarks, Making Straight What Has Been Crooked: How Do We Tell Our History? Whose Voices Are Heard? What Role Does Politics Play?
This event is open to the public and tickets are on sale now at https://tigerbay40.com/
Use the code CATALYST for $35 off non-member VIP or general admission.