The Atlantic

Robert E. Lee Topples From His Pedestal

The city of New Orleans is removing its soaring monument to the Confederate general, who for decades was held up as a model for the nation and a symbol of its reunion.
Source: Jonathan Bachman / Reuters

Workers began dismantling the Robert E. Lee monument in New Orleans on Friday, and will soon place it in temporary storage with three other such memorials. Once finished, their work will complete the most sweeping change to a major city’s Civil War commemorative landscape since the initial calls to lower Confederate battle flags and remove Confederate monuments in 2015, following the murder of nine black churchgoers by Dylann Roof at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

While calls to extract all four New Orleans monuments have been accompanied by controversy—including heated protest—the removal of the Lee monument may be the most difficult for the core defenders of Confederate heritage to accept. It may also be difficult for others who do not embrace a neo-Confederate agenda. Unlike Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard, and other icons similarly honored in stone, only Lee managed to transcend his place in a slaveholders’ rebellion to achieve mythical status on par with other vaunted historical figures.

It should come as no surprise that the general’s popularity achieved its greatest ascendency

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min read
Can A Film Be A Love Letter To A Country?
New movies from the writer-directors Lulu Wang and Diana Peralta explore complex questions about national belonging and communal responsibility.
The Atlantic5 min readPsychology
When One Person on a Date Is Just There for the Free Food
“I mean, if it’s dinner, I’m not going to say no, so that I don’t have to go home and cook.”
The Atlantic4 min readPsychology
People Seek Out a Certain Kind of Person When They Are Happy
Heaps of research suggest that social relationships make people happier—but which relationships, specifically? A guilt-ridden afternoon with a mother-in-law might not have the same effect as drinks with a best friend. A “fair-weather friend” stands b