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Tulane Confederate monuments remind students of past, present oppression

April 6, 2017

Tulane University can draw its roots back to 1834, more than a century before the move to desegregate schools in the United States. The university’s past is closely intertwined with the Confederacy and slavery. Seeing Confederate monuments scattered across Tulane’s campus symbolizes for many students of color that Tulane was not built for them.

“[It] only acts as a reminder of the oppression of blacks in the South and the support of white supremacy,” freshman Imani Evans said.

From educational institutions like Georgetown University to Take ‘Em Down NOLA, which pushes to remove Confederate monuments in New Orleans, there have been initiatives to remove and remedy the effects of white supremacist symbols.

Take ‘Em Down NOLA works not only to take down statues of historical figures such as Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis but also to change the names of local schools and streets. On its website, the organization lists Tulane as one of these monuments.

Tulane sophomore Sam Barton, a Take ‘Em Down NOLA community organizer, is hopeful about the increase in community education about the potential effects of Confederate monuments.

“I think it’s easy for most Tulane students to see that honoring these monuments — despite their history — is perceived as racist and oppressive by a lot of people who live and work in this community,” Barton said.

Though the prominence of the national conversation on Confederate monuments is evident in the media, the question of what is considered to be a symbol of the Old South remains contentious.

For many students of color on Tulane’s campus, the names of the academic buildings themselves serve as reminders of the university’s ties to the Confederacy.

Randall Lee Gibson, the namesake of Gibson Hall, was a general in the Confederate Army. Gibson was instrumental in establishing the university seen today and moving it from a public to a private school.

“… Gibson was the first president of the Board of Administrators of the Tulane Educational Fund,” Tulane University Archivist Ann Case said. “The fact that he was a general in the Confederate Army, and, therefore, a Confederate symbol, doesn’t even enter my mind when I think of Gibson Hall.”

Gibson’s contributions, however, go beyond president of the board and point more towards his beliefs.

According to Media NOLA, “Gibson […] advised Tulane to change his bequest from serving just the ‘young men of the city of New Orleans’ to ‘young white persons’ of New Orleans.”

This, on one hand, opened the door to white women but still left no room for students of color.

While the intent behind bestowing a building in his name might not be problematic, Evan believes the effects centuries later are hard to miss.

“Symbols in public spaces are supposed to represent who we are as people and what we value and stand for, so I think they send a negative message about what Tulane values and who they see as heroes,” Evans said.

The symbols on Tulane’s campus go beyond Gibson Hall.

Charles T. Howard’s Confederate war memorabilia is displayed in F. Edward Hebert Hall, which houses the Center for Academic Equity, an office that assists students of color.

For many students who know this history, there is a disparity between the message of inclusivity Tulane sends in flyers and emails and the environment students face on campus. As students of color walk the campus day after day, they come in and out of classrooms with the names and memorabilia of men who never valued their existence.

“The motto of Tulane University is ‘Non sibi, sed suis,’ which means ‘Not for one’s self, but for one’s own,’ Barton said. “If our institution is serious about diverging its mission from that of its founder, who wanted to promote education for young white men, our administration needs to be more accountable, taking active measures rather than touting rhetoric.”

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  • John GreyNov 3, 2017 at 1:05 am

    “Symbols in public spaces are supposed to represent who we are as people and what we value and stand for.” No, symbols in public spaces were put up, metal and stone, to withstand the test of time and as they age they become of historical value and memorials to our past. I we removed statues based on some butt hurt feelings there would be none left. All people are hurt or offended by something they see in public. Get over it.

  • Eric JonesMay 30, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    I am a Black American man living in NYC. I am a college grad. In my opinion fighting Confederate symbols is a waste of time. According to Death Row Louisiana has 76 men on death row, 70 of them are Black men 92%. Black unemployment in Louisiana is 7.7%. Our energies would be better spent on correcting the conditions that lead to Black men being on death row and Blacks suffering high unemployment rates. Have Black Americans returned to the Lower 9th Ward and getting help in reviving that area? While we are being distracted by symbols I would not be surprised if a land grab is going in New Orleans, or contracts being given under the table. We cannot continue to be mislead.


  • William W WatsonApr 9, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    I graduated from Tulane Law School in 1958.

    Can’t remember, for the life of me, ever noticing any civil war monuments on the campus.

    Rabble rousers get a lot of undeserved attention!

  • Gloria CrassonsApr 9, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I am getting ready this May to celebrate my 50th reunion graduation from H. Sophie Newcomb College. Back in my day, Newcomb was a well run, academically challenging and grounded young women with rules including times to be in the dorm at night and dress attire. We were the last class to take comprehensive exams and be part of every school at Tulane to graduate together in Municipal Auditorium. We were too busy preparing for our future lives to be concerned with the trivia being played out in society today.

    • LPApr 14, 2017 at 12:37 am


  • Donna KApr 9, 2017 at 11:04 am

    I have to wonder how many of those opposed to removal of the memorials cheered when Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled in Baghdad in 2003. Symbols are important. The journalist’s views bear hearing out, not dismissal. As for myself I’d like to see more public recognition and historical markers acknowledging NOLA’s history and role in the domestic slave trade. The Whitney Plantation is a step in the right direction; it is the only plantation in the area that focuses on the lives of the enslaved.
    PS Don’t listen to Confederate Mike. Hurling insults is not a valid argument.

  • Donna KApr 8, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    These monuments should not be removed because they are historical reminders of a past to be acknowledged and from which we must learn. The Dachau concentration camp and many other historical structures and symbols of Nazi Germany haven’t been removed; they provide useful reminders of a history we don’t want to repeat. Can I suggest as a start that bronze plaques be installed to educate passersby about Tulane’s origins, founders (and their source of wealth), NOLA history, progress made, and work still to be done?
    The US banned the international slave trade 24 years before the founding of Tulane. After that, NOLA became ground zero for the domestic slave trade. This history is rich, deep, and disturbing; it must not be erased. There are many reminders but few public acknowledgements of this history in NOLA.
    The confederate flag is a different symbol and one that connotes white supremacy every bit as much as the swastika represents white nationalism. Those who cling to the flag as just a bit of history to be preserved may not know that the flag was raised above State capitals and elsewhere in large numbers in 1964…and not before then. The flag was raised within weeks of President Kennedy signing an executive order that the Federal Govt. would not hold contracts with companies who have segregated workplaces. Raising the flag was an act of defiance by those clinging to a lifestyle and culture depraved by slavery.
    Lest you think I am a snowflake college student, I am a white, southern, old lady who thinks we need to acknowledge the facts and history of our past so that we may move beyond it and create opportunity for all. Of course I didn’t own slaves…but as a white person in the south I most definitely benefited from my complexion. Kudos to this young Tulane journalist who does not accept that history should be swept under the rug.

  • TomApr 8, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Its ironic that students want to “oppress” in order to not be reminded of “oppression”. It is much like Landrieu’s irony of wanting to “exclude” certain people and monuments in order to be more “inclusive”. There is more irony in the fact that the City hung large banners on Gallier Hall stating “Preserving Our Past” while they are seeking to “remove our past”. Tolerance is not a one way street.

    Use these monuments as a learning tool … I did. Since Landrieu’s hate campaign started against the monuments I have read about 15 books about the Civil War. You might be surprised at what you learn, I was. Confederate soldiers included tens of thousands of African Americans, Native Americans (who had been treated badly by the Union), Jewish, Irish, Italian, etc. The war resulted in the end of slavery but started about tariffs and self government … same as the Revolutionary War.

    Remember slavery existed under the U.S. flag for approximately 80 years, including the four years of the Civil War, since slaves states fought with the Union. Slaves were sold into slavery by other Africans. European and then NORTHERN ships profited by the slave trade. There were more slaves in Massachusetts than in Georgia in 1776. If you want to remove signs of oppression then remove the flags of France, England, Portugal, Africa, and the United States.

    I recently learned that the Emancipation Proclamation EXCLUDED Orleans and New Orleans and other specifically named south Louisiana Parishes. So much for the “Great Emancipator”. Lincoln admitted West Virginia to the Union during the Civil War as a SLAVE STATE.

    Read this link to learn about the real Lincoln:

  • Cara Z.Apr 7, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    This is a thoughtful, progressive, well-researched article. Y’all are doing great work. Some of the above comments show why your writing is so necessary and adds a positive voice to a conversation often full of white supremacists. Thanks for being brave.

  • Chris DaemmrichApr 7, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    An excellent, well-researched piece of journalism. Keep up the great work, yall!

  • David NaccariApr 7, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I am also highly offended by any “social justice” group or newspaper or city that would use “NOLA” in its name or as part of its web site address because NOLA stands for “New Orleans, Louisiana” and Louisiana was named after a French king who issued a slave code (the Code Noir) which expelled all Jews from the Louisiana colony and further ordered that disobedient slaves be branded with the fleur-de-lis. Come to think of it, I’m highly offended by the fleur-de-lis as it appears on the Saints’ helmet and everywhere else that it appears in New Orleans. This hateful symbol of white supremacy must be totally expunged from our community so that we can show the world how far we have come as we approach our 300th anniversary.…/150829191901-katrina.

  • David NaccariApr 6, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    As a native of New Orleans, I am offended by the Mardi Gras Indians because Native Americans owned slaves and the last Confederate general to surrender to the Union army was a Native American; I am also offended by the Krewe of Zulu because it is named in honor of an African tribe that demanded slaves from neighboring tribes in tribute; I am offended by St. Augustine High School and St. Augustine Church because they are named in honor of an African bishop who taught that slavery is the price you pay for having sinned; I am offended by the Buffalo Soldiers statue in Audubon Park because it honors soldiers who helped the U. S. Army commit genocide against Native Americans; I am offended by the Martin Luther King, Jr. statue because he was named after a Protestant theologian who openly called for the genocide and enslavement of Jews (my grandmother was Jewish so that makes me Jewish, too); I am offended by Loyola University (Mitch Landrieu’s law school alma mater) because it bears the name of a Catholic theologian who taught that the purpose of slavery was to protect and serve the poor; I am offended by the Democratic Party because they were the party of slavery in the antebellum South and the party of segregation in the years following the Civil War; I am offended by the Bible because in the Book of Exodus God handed Moses a slave code right after he handed him the Ten Commandments, and St. Paul tells slaves to be obedient to their masters. I feel oppressed and excluded by the presence of these things in our community and ask that they be included in the list of all things that must be taken down or renamed in New Orleans.

    • Bernie CyrusApr 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      So true!

    • Bernie CyrusApr 7, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Very good you know your stuff!

    • Bernie CyrusApr 7, 2017 at 7:03 pm

      These are facts and you are very good you know your stuff!

    • PrideApr 11, 2017 at 8:20 am

      Well said.

  • J. PrestonApr 6, 2017 at 10:10 pm

    It is history. It would be a shame to erase history.

  • annApr 6, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    As an LSU grad of the mid 50s, I can tell you Tulane wasn’t built for me, either. It was built for rich people who held places in society. LSU was for most of us who couldn’t afford or didn’t want Tulane. Besides it was still a men’s school then with Sophie Newcomb for the girls. My dermatologist’s daughter went to Newcomb; I went to LSU. This is so ridiculous. Monuments are monuments and unless you have a cult who worships at one, what difference does it make? We are all flawed humans so somewhere there will always be a monument to a sinner. Can’t get rid of them all.

    • Katie,May 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm

      This has changed and for that I am thankful. I am a Tulane graduate from around a decade ago.

      I grew up in the New Orleans suburbs. My parents made around $30k/yr (around or less than what the cost of attending Tulane was at the time). I had an academic scholarship and grants that made it possible for me to attend and graudate from Tulane (I am also not a minority).

  • JenApr 6, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    I graduated from Tulane and never noticed confederate monuments at all. I was too busy working my butt off to earn that degree that says Tulane University. Tulane means one thing to most people who hear the name-education. I graduated last year and I saw no one of any of the extremely diverse ethnicities represented at Tulane having a meltdown about monuments.
    Anyone who might even see the monuments on campus should have learned by this point you can’t erase history just because you don’t like it.

    • Katie,May 5, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      I also graduated from Tulane in the mid-2000s, took several classes in Hebert Hall, and never noticed any of these confederate monuments…
      I was surprised to learn they were there.

  • LAApr 6, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Ridiculous! I test high school kids and adults for a living and in the past week I have had the following answers to who was prez of the US during the “civil war”: JFK, Teddy Roosevelt, George Bush, and Ronald freaking Reagan!! Maybe, just maybe, if we spent more time teaching kids history and English they could eventually read and learn things for themselves instead of what some half-wit hippie social science teacher or racist with an agenda against white people told them. It is sad what we are doing to our children. Leave the monuments alone or they will never get curious to research themselves. As for honor and respectability as a person goes, Lincoln and Sherman were not fit to shine General Lee’s or General Jackson’s shoes.

    • John GreyNov 3, 2017 at 1:09 am

      Please tell me where these geniuses went to school. I certainly wouldn’t want to send my kid there!

  • Harry ShortApr 6, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Tulane is a private school. These students made their choice.
    If they now don’t like the school’s heritage, leave it.
    What a bunch of snowflakes.

  • Erick LewkoApr 6, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    I’m guessing you didn’t get the memo from TEDnola that they also want the name “TULANE” gone as well. But what is laughable is that none of these monuments were of any concern until some nut job shot people in a church and he wore a confederate flag T-shirt on Insta. That’s a pretty odd catalyst for change!

    TEDnola would be better served working to improve their own communities than to spend time and resources on trying to make bronze statues, street names go away and even push to forget the origin of institutes of higher learning like Tulane.

    It’s time to put the breaks on the SJW/PC train!


  • MikaseauxApr 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

    “Seeing Confederate monuments scattered across Tulane’s campus symbolizes for many students of color that Tulane was not built for them.” or current minority students could look at those statues when they pass and think General Lee look at me! I’m here and I’m proud to be here. It could be used as a measure of how far we’ve come. Don’t take things down. The answer is to add more current symbols of achievement. Everyone is looking for a quick remedy to cure racism. Taking things down is not the cure. Only time and achievement can do that.

  • Ashamed Tulane GradApr 6, 2017 at 11:42 am

    These students are pathetic. You can’t erase history, the sooner we do that the closer we get to George Orwell’s 1984.

  • Confederate MikeApr 6, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Absolutely ridiculous ! Go cry to mama you imbecile snow flakes and leave history alone !!! Your severe lack of Southern history is what’s causing your Confederate phobia.

    Stop trying to erase history simply due to the fact that you don’t like it. You goddamned fools. Thousands of brave men, women and children have died and sacrificed everything in defense of their homes and land from the invading Yankee killers and destroyers.

    Sorry to burst your fantasy bubble, however the entire world along with it’s civilizations have been built on conquests of other nations, people and slavery. From the Egyptians to African tribes, from the entire Roman Empire to the British and French Empires all the way to Asia and South America. While I don’t condone man’s actions of the past, I certainly condemn idiot losers attempting to remove, hide and destroy historical references and monuments which serve as educational pieces.

    Shame on all of you ill-informed and misguided souls. The war has ended, foes and enemies have become friends a long time ago while learning to live with their differences and respecting each other. Peace among American brothers and sisters has existed for a hundred and fifty years after the conflict. No one is oppressing or belittling you. It is your own lousy perception of history and some sort of self induced inferiority complex which you fools have been developing lately. And that’s what is poisoning your outlook about historical surroundings. Monuments and statues are harmless. The corrosion you artificially create is causing the problem and not the names and statues of folks whom have walked this land before you.

    Be grateful, happy and love yourself , only then will you begin to love, or at least respect the history of your neighbors and their ancestors.

    Deo Vindice, Confederate Mike.

    • robert shofstahlApr 6, 2017 at 7:01 pm

      As a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Tulane in 1964 I am so sorry to hear that people want to destroy history.

  • Steven BurasApr 6, 2017 at 8:02 am

    As a protector of knowledge and history, I am a firm believer that these monument represent today nothing more than the history of the city I was born and raised in. I have had the pleasure of doing an internship at Tulane, attend many athletic events etc. Nothing about Tulane represents white supremacy unless you really go looking for it. The same goes for the monuments of Lee and Beauregard. And if one looks at their entire historical lives, they will see they were honorable men. The obelisk can be removed. Davis is a more interesting figure if anyone has ever taken the time to do their research. Apparently, certain Tulane students do not know how to do proper unbiased research in a library, using credible sources. IF they did, they would realize how stupid and a waste it is to have a movement dedicated to washing away history. If Tulane, a private entity, does not grow a backbone, they will lose all respect I have had for the university. I get that people’s feelings are hurt, but they are only hurt because they still have this stranglehold on something that happened over 150 years ago. New Orleans is not the city I was born in. It is far worse with far bigger problems than a few monuments, street and building names. They should put their energy into fighting crime, building up the city, not tearing it down. However, that would go against their agenda which is to tear N.O. down as far as they can in a short sighted effort to think things will change if this happens. Thankfully, I no longer live there, but will always have a stake in it as it was my birth place.

    • Bernie CyrusApr 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      Very true. I would give a free lecture to any History class at Tulane and I guarantee this kids stuff would end!

      Author, Rethinkin’ Lincoln