When the jazz musician Wynton Marsalis first broached the idea of removing the Confederate monuments in New Orleans to Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2014, the mayor was skeptical.
“I really rejected it, to tell you the truth,” Landrieu told TIME in an interview Wednesday. But he says it soon became “painfully obvious” that several of New Orleans public monuments' commemorating Reconstruction-era white uprisings and defenders of slavery had to go. "The truth was that these monuments were put up purposefully to send a message and to be a sanitized version of the Confederacy," Landrieu says.
Two-and-a-half years later, following a city council vote and a series of ongoing legal challenges, the monuments in New Orleans have started falling—and the removal has awakened the ghosts that linger in the South, where some see tributes to the Confederacy as symbols of heritage and others as reminders of hate.
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