Jefferson Davis Monument

Stop 3 of 4 in the Confederate Monuments in New Orleans tour

Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America, died in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 6, 1889. Residents hung black bunting from buildings along St. Charles Avenue, and the city itself entered a period of mourning. Almost immediately, memorial associations sprang up in cities across the South with the aim of creating a suitable monument for Davis.

The national council of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, or UDC, worked to create a large monument for Davis in Richmond, Virginia, and smaller branches worked across the South to pay tribute to Davis. A New Orleans chapter of the UDC formed the Jefferson Davis Memorial Association in order to build an “appropriate monument commemorative of the life and services of the only president of the Confederacy.” The only memorial association in post-Civil War New Orleans composed entirely of women, the JDMA worked closely with the United Confederate Veterans. In fact, the Associations president, Mrs. W.J. Behan, was the wife of former mayor William J. Behan, who served in the Confederate Army and fought against the Metropolitan Police in the Battle of Liberty Place. The JDMA’s charter stated that any “white person” of good moral character could apply for membership. Neither the Beauregard Monument Committee nor the Robert E. Lee memorial association had stipulations on the race of members.

The organization solicited “subscriptions” from the general public for funding, stating “every southern man, woman and child” should consider it an honor to belong to the Jefferson Davis Memorial Association. They also held auctions, sponsored plays and solicited funds from the national organization of the Daughters of the Confederacy. The City of New Orleans also contributed to the cause, donating a parcel of land at the intersection of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway for the monument. Originally, the JDMA had proposed placing the monument on St. Charles Avenue across from Tulane University.

With help from the state legislature, whom the JDMA had petitioned for funds, the association unveiled their finished monument in 1911, four years before the Beauregard Monument would be completed. The Association had hoped to commission Alexander Doyle, the artist who created the Lee statue and would later construct the Beauregard monument. But by 1908, they still could not raise the $15,000 Doyle demanded. In the end, the JDMA selected Virginian Edward Valentine to create the Davis monument, the artist who also created a statue of Lee for Washington and Lee University.

Historians have noted that statues erected to Jefferson Davis were intended, in part, to repair his public image. The circumstances of his arrest by Union officials in 1865 were lampooned by the northern press, as it was rumored that Davis had tried to escape wearing one of his wife’s dresses. Countering those images of the Confederate president, the monument committee requested that Davis be made to appear “as a statesman, standing and addressing the people…” The statue, cast in bronze, stands just over eight feet tall and is mounted on a thirteen square foot granite pedestal. The front of the monument has raised text, praising Davis as one of the “fittest men” of the South. A “profound student of the Constitution,” a “majestic orator,” and in purpose resolute, Davis was “enshrined in the hearts of the people for whom he suffered.”

The Jefferson Davis Monument is slated to be removed from its present location on the neutral ground at Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway. Along with the Lee monument and the Beauregard monument, the Davis monument has become a symbol of slavery, racism, and oppression to many New Orleans residents. The monuments will be housed in a city warehouse until a more permanent location can be determined.

Images

Jefferson Davis Monument

Jefferson Davis Monument

The Jefferson Davis Monument stands at the intersection of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway. The announcement of the monument’s erection was written with much public anticipation and celebration. | Source: Courtesy of the Historic New Orleans Collection. View File Details Page

Mrs. William J. Behan

Mrs. William J. Behan

This picture is taken from the obituary of Mrs. William J. Behan. Mrs. Behan served as the president of the Ladies' Southern Memorial Association of New Orleans and also served in the Jefferson Davis Monument Association of New Orleans. She played a major role in the fundraising for and planning of the Jefferson Davis Monument. | Source: Behan, Mrs. W. J. Photographs, Louisiana Historical Association Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University. View File Details Page

Meeting Announcements

Meeting Announcements

The Times-Picayune ran an ad each time The Jefferson Davis Monument Association met to discuss matters related to the project. Meetings were frequently held on Saturday afternoons at Memorial Hall in New Orleans. Women played a large role in the Association, which raised funds and secured approval for the monument.  At the dedication ceremony, it was reported that a group of New Orleans schoolgirls fell into formation, rendering the Confederate flag in human form. | Source: "Louisiana Monument." The Daily Picayune. December 12, 1912. Memorial Association Papers, Louisiana Historical Association collection. Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University. View File Details Page

Fundraising the Monument

Fundraising the Monument

Potential individual donors to the Jefferson Davis monument received a letter like this one, requesting a monetary donation to the monument project. | Source: Behan, W. J., Mrs. "Erection of Jefferson Davis Monument." Memorial Association Papers, Louisiana Historical Association collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University. View File Details Page

Fundraising for the Monument

Fundraising for the Monument

This document appeals to the United Confederate Veterans and the United Sons of Confederate Veterans for money to erect the monument to Jefferson Davis, suggesting that by "honoring the memory of Jefferson Davis, you honor every man that wore the grey." | Source: Behan, W. J., Mrs. to Garland L. Dupre, No date. Memorial Association Papers, Louisiana Historical Association collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University. View File Details Page

Jefferson Davis Details

Jefferson Davis Details

The inscription on the monument reads: “The South, seeking a Leader, for her highest office, chose him from among her fittest men. A profound student of the Constitution; a majestic orator; in character firm; in judgment sound; in purpose resolute.” Below appears the seal of Confederacy surrounded by palm branches and oak leaves, emblematic of strength and peace, along with thirteen stars representing the number of states in the Confederacy. | Source: Photograph by Olivia Simkins View File Details Page

Jefferson Davis: Slave Owner

Jefferson Davis: Slave Owner

One of the first documented protest vandalisms of the Jefferson Davis Monument occurred in 2004. Acts of vandalism have been visited upon the city's Confederate monuments to raise awareness around contemporary social issues and to question the continued presence of statues to secessionists and supporters of slavery in the public landscape. | Source: Image found in Wikimedia Commons. View File Details Page

Angela Davis Graffiti

Angela Davis Graffiti

On January 1, 2016, the Davis monument was also defaced with the name of political activist Angela Davis in an attempt to reclaim a space that many believe works to subjugate the African American community. This action also called for a re-examination of how we commemorate U.S. history. Angela Davis's work focuses on issues such as prison rights, feminism, African American studies, and social consciousness and awareness. | Source: To view this and other images see, http://photos.nola.com/4500/gallery/jefferson_davis_statue_in_new_/index.html#/0. | Creator: Brett Duke, The Times-Picayune. View File Details Page

Angela Davis Monument

Angela Davis Monument

This image was created as part of the "Monu-MENTAL" exhibit at the Antenna Gallery in 2012. It goes one step further than the previous image of graffiti by superimposing Black Panther activist Angela Davis atop the monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. | Source: More information about this exhibit can be found at http://www.insidenola.org/2012/02/monumental-at-antenna-through-march-4.html. View File Details Page

A Peaceful Protest

A Peaceful Protest

When introducing the idea of removing the Confederate statues, Mayor Landrieu stated: "This discussion is about whether these monuments, built to reinforce the false valor of a war fought over slavery, ever really belonged in a city as great as New Orleans whose lifeblood flows from our diversity and inclusiveness.” In another kind of protest someone placed a peace symbol in the hand of Jefferson Davis, suggesting that this city-wide conversation can be a starting point for social and political reconciliation. | Source: To see the photograph in its original context see, http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/12731905-148/charleston-killings-lead-to-calls. | Creator: Matthew Hinton, The New Orleans Advocate. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amber Nicholson Media curated by Karolyn Eilertsen and Olivia Simkins, “Jefferson Davis Monument,” New Orleans Historical, accessed June 29, 2017, http://www.neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/1278.
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