Tulane professor tied to pro-Confederate groups

Rohan Goswami and Domenic Mesa

According to an investigation conducted by The Tulane Hullabaloo, Richard Marksbury, dean emeritus and current associate professor, has affiliations with pro-Confederate monument groups. 

As of 2017, Marksbury was an active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In 2019, Marksbury also served as a guest lecturer at a Sons of the Confederate Veterans function. Marksbury has written for the “Confederate Veteran,” a private magazine for Sons of Confederate Veterans members. The Hullabaloo has been unable to confirm if he remains an active member. 

In 2016, Marksbury appeared on WGSO’s Battle of New Orleans program following the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, discussing the Andrew Jackson monument and the lawsuit Marksbury filed against former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The aforementioned video has since been deleted. The account, BattleNolaRadio, posted the video to Youtube on Sept. 29, 2016.

When interviewed by The New York Times, Marksbury said that Duke had “minimal” involvement in the monument affair.

Described by former colleagues as “professional” and “nice,” Marksbury received significant national press coverage for having filed suit against Landrieu in 2017 to stop the removal of a statue of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard.

As part of his efforts to stop the removal of Confederate monuments, Marksbury was introduced as a School of Liberal Arts professor when he appeared on Jeff Crouere’s “Politics with a Punch” television show. On air, he denied any link between Confederate monuments and Dylann Roof’s massacre in Charleston besides the timing of the two incidents. In the aftermath of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church, there was a national outcry over Roof’s veneration of Confederate monuments.That outcry prompted the removal of monuments across the country, including in New Orleans.

Marksbury wrote an academic paper, “A New Great Awakening: The Threat to New Orleans’s Confederate Monuments,” where he asked in reference to Confederate monuments: “What will happen to our country’s heritage, the good and the bad, if its symbolic landscapes can be so easily destroyed when a previous minority group becomes the new majority?”

In 2017, Marksbury presented a lecture called “The History of P.G.T. Beauregard,” in St. Bernard Parish. Marksbury suggested that Beauregard was an advocate of civil rights for freed slaves. Tulane former chair and current professor in the history department Randy Sparks said to the contrary, “Beauregard’s support of civil rights for former slaves was not genuine or not in simple terms. It was part of the complicated politics of Reconstruction New Orleans where [Beauregard’s] faction hoped to lure [Black] voters away from the Republican Party.” Beauregard’s effort failed, in part, because “Blacks saw through it and refused to support it.” 

After Marksbury also said that Beauregard never “bought or sold slaves,” Sparks said that the statement may be technically true. But what we are talking about [is] slave ownership, and Beauregard certainly owned slaves. He certainly inherited, and I assume, also gained, ownership of others.” 

In his lecture on Beauregard, Marksbury also said that Orleans Parish “still tries to force employers to hire a certain percent of Blacks on any construction jobs they have.” 

Marksbury may have been referring to the City of New Orleans’ State and Local Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which seeks to give a certain percentage of city contracts to disadvantaged individuals. Beau Tidwell, director of communications for New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, said that there is not a ‘hiring quota’ or a mandate singling out any specific racial or minority group.”

In a 2017 interview with NOLA.com, Marksbury is introduced as an expert in the field of Southern Confederate monuments. Sparks, a Southern historian, said that “so far as I know, Marksbury is an anthropologist, with a specialty in South Asia. I don’t know what about that makes him an expert in Southern history, culture and monuments.” While Marksbury holds a bachelor’s degree in history, Marksbury’s academic field is South Asian studies and his doctorate is in anthropology

Marksbury was also a member of the Monument Removal Committee, which submitted recommendations to Mayor Cantrell on Confederate monuments in New Orleans. Mayor Cantrell has previously said that “[her] plan is to work with those who care about [the statues] and come up with a plan that [she] could support.”

“This group did not formally work for the City or for the administration, and they were neither created nor appointed by Mayor Cantrell,” Tidwell said.

Contrary to Tidwell’s statement, committee records obtained via a public records request by The Times-Picayune showed that members indicated they were  “entrusted [by the Mayor] with the charge of considering various sites for [Confederate] monuments.

In those same records, Marksbury is also appointed as spokesperson of the committee. One committee member, Sally Reeves, asked Marksbury if he had tenure at Tulane before voting to approve Marksbury as spokesperson.

Reeves told The Hullabaloo that her question was intended to establish whether Marksbury would be protected from termination. Reeves said she believed Marksbury would be punished for his work on behalf of the committee. 

The majority of the Monument Removal Committee, including Marksbury, are also members of the Monumental Task Committee, an organization which in 2016 unsuccessfully fought to keep statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Beauregard from being removed.

Executive Director of Public Relations Mike Strecker, on behalf of Tulane President Mike Fitts and two other administrators, declined to comment on Marksbury’s non-Tulane engagements. 

Richard Marksbury’s activities related to the Monumental Task Committee were conducted as a private citizen. We have no knowledge of the comments you have attributed to him and cannot comment on personnel matters,” Strecker said.

Despite this, Tulane News has linked articles about Marksbury on Tulane’s website as far back as 2017. All linked articles involved Marksbury’s defense of Confederate monuments.

Marksbury did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him and stated to a third party that he would not speak to The Hullabaloo.

Marksbury has also penned numerous letters to the editor of The Times-Picayune, The Advocate and The Mechanicsville Local

In one letter, he asks, “What evidence supports the statement the South started the war [to] ‘preserve slavery’?” Marksbury used the exact same language in an article he wrote for “Confederate Veterans,” the magazine of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Civil War historians widely agree that slavery, “more than any other issue,” was the root cause of the Civil War. Sparks told The Hullabaloo that slavery had “everything” to do with the war.  

In a series of similar letters, Marksbury defended “Lost Cause” mythology and argued against the renaming of his alma mater, Lee-Davis High School. He signed all the letters as “Richard A. Marksbury, PhD.” Marksbury is the only doctorate-holding individual named Richard A. Marksbury in the U.S. that The Hullabaloo could locate via internet search. 

Marksbury has been employed by Tulane for 41 years. Marksbury was appointed associate dean of University College — now the School of Professional Advancement — in 1982 and promoted to dean in 1996. The Monumental Task Committee was formed in 1989, and Marksbury is referenced in their literature as recently as 2019.

            Marksbury offers two courses for the spring 2021 semester — ASTA 1800: Introduction to Asian Studies and ASTA 3550: Feudal Japan- Samurai Era. Marksbury has taught roughly 30 students per semester since spring of 2019.