In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History

In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History

"An extraordinarily powerful journey that is both political and personal...An important book for everyone in America to read." --Walter Isaacson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs The New Orleans mayor who removed the Confederate statues confronts the racism that shapes us and argues for white America to reckon with its past. A passio...

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Title:In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History
Author:Mitch Landrieu
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In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History Reviews

  • Kusaimamekirai

    The Civil War is something America has never really comes to terms with. Hell, we can barely agree on what to call it with the Southern part of the country still calling it “The War Between the States” or for those less inclined toward subtlety, “The War of Northern Aggression”. A symbol of this are the scores of monuments to Southern generals and soldiers that dot the American landscape, often going unnoticed by the majority of the people who pass them on a daily basis. For some they are just quaint historical markers of Southern pride. Nothing more nothing less. For many Black Americans however, these statues are keenly felt reminders of a time where men held them in chains and even when the literal chains were removed, figurative ones remained. They are reminders that a not insignificant number of White Americans fight passionately to preserve these symbols and perpetuate the myths of racial superiority even in 2018.

    Mitch Landrieu’s book discusses his 8 years as the mayor of New Orleans and his battle to take these statues down. The actual discussion of the statues removal is limited to the end of the book but in discussing the racial history of New Orleans, Katrina, and others events that deeply affected the city, they are lurking with a watchful eye in the background, never too far away. For Landrieu, especially 10 years after Katrina and the rebuilding of New Orleans, he began to see with the help of friends (Winton Marsalis in particular), that if a new and inclusive New Orleans were truly to rise from the ashes, it could not do so under the shadow of these divisive monuments. The road to their removal took true courage as Landrieu, his family, his friends, even the people hired to supply the cranes suffered death threats and constant harassment. As Landrieu asks himself with understandable incredulity, are we still really fighting the barrels of the Civil War, 150 years later? Sadly the answer is yes. However the successful removal of these statues, and the cooperation of a host of people it would’ve been impossible without, is an encouraging sign that at least some Americans are willing to stop looking back at a falsified and idealized past that was full of misery for so many, and walk albeit slowly into a new and more inclusive future.

    As an aside to this wonderful book, I highly recommend searching on youtube for the speech Landrieu gave announcing

    the removal of these monuments. It is an inspiring and powerful speech and if someone sent me a Landrieu for President 2020 t-shirt after watching it, I’d wear it proudly.

  • Chris

    One can’t help but wonder if this book will be a launching pad to the presidency as Obama’s “Dreams of My Father” was. It’s sincere and passionate. Mitch comes off as the next Bill Clinton but without the sleaze. He tells his life story as well as the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. If you read the acknowledgments at the end of the book you might question how much of the book he actually wrote with thanks to speech writers and journalists. However, if you have seen him on television speaking about

    One can’t help but wonder if this book will be a launching pad to the presidency as Obama’s “Dreams of My Father” was. It’s sincere and passionate. Mitch comes off as the next Bill Clinton but without the sleaze. He tells his life story as well as the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. If you read the acknowledgments at the end of the book you might question how much of the book he actually wrote with thanks to speech writers and journalists. However, if you have seen him on television speaking about this book you would know it’s all his work. He is an engaging speaker who leaves you with hope for the future. Yes, what’s next for Mitch?

  • Jill Meyer

    I'm trying to read up on possible Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race. Mitch Landrieu, currently mayor of New Orleans and formerly Lt Governor of Louisiana, has been mentioned as a dark horse, lurking on the edges of the political landscape. Landrieu's new book, "In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History", is a good look at three major issues that he has handled in his time in the two major offices he has held in Louisiana.

    Landrieu writes about his family -

    I'm trying to read up on possible Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race. Mitch Landrieu, currently mayor of New Orleans and formerly Lt Governor of Louisiana, has been mentioned as a dark horse, lurking on the edges of the political landscape. Landrieu's new book, "In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History", is a good look at three major issues that he has handled in his time in the two major offices he has held in Louisiana.

    Landrieu writes about his family - his father Moon was for many years mayor of New Orleans - and his liberal upbringing. Born in 1960 - one of nine children to Moon and Vera Landrieu - Mitch went to Catholic schools and colleges and eventually became a lawyer, like his father. He entered politics on a state legislative level and ran for and won higher state offices. As Lt Governor under Kathleen Blanco, he participated in the cleanup of the Katrina hurricane in 2005. He names names on the people he felt were not helpful - Mayor Ray Nagin - is held up as basically worthless. Katrina is the first of the three issues Landrieu writes about in depth; the other two are the Confederate Monuments and the problems in the black area of New Orleans.

    Okay, the thing you can ask is "how honest is Mitch Landrieu?" I don't know but these pre-election books are never, and I mean NEVER, written with anything other than self-aggrandizement. The time for complete honesty in a political memoir comes, if it does come at all, in a final memoir after a politician has left public life. Mitch Landrieu's book is an interesting look at the life of a white Southern liberal politician. He's a good writer and I think he was probably as honest as he could be. Will we see him in national office? Beats me...

  • Ernest Farmer

    Awesome and courageous , a must read for K = 12History

    Thank you mayor for your courage and actions

    E, farmer

  • Shavon Jones

    People are somehow reading this history book and getting distracted by the fact that the author is a politician. But let's not be so cynical that we overlook the issue of race solely because someone in the public square is raising it. A white politician is an ideal messenger for an historical account of race relations in the Deep South and the rest of the U.S.

    This is a book review of the content of Mayor Landrieu's message and the manner of his delivery. I love the fact that Landrieu chose to d

    People are somehow reading this history book and getting distracted by the fact that the author is a politician. But let's not be so cynical that we overlook the issue of race solely because someone in the public square is raising it. A white politician is an ideal messenger for an historical account of race relations in the Deep South and the rest of the U.S.

    This is a book review of the content of Mayor Landrieu's message and the manner of his delivery. I love the fact that Landrieu chose to deliver his take on the history of race in the form of a story about his childhood in New Orleans, the comparative experience of his black friends living there, and how time he spent attending college up North and traveling abroad to Holocaust sites informed his insights into both overt and subtle racism back home.

    Landrieu began his quest for understanding while investigating confederate statutes that had been erected on government property in New Orleans. Why were the statutes erected? Was it to celebrate the South's participation (and defeat) in the Civil War or was it to deny blacks the freedoms won through the Union's victory in the war? When were the statutes erected? Who erected them? Landrieu needed the answers to those questions in order to decide whether the statutes should remain. His quest for answers led him through 300 years of history dating to the founding of New Orleans as the major North American slave-trading post, the Civil War that ended official slavery, the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras of government-sanctioned unofficial slavery, the Civil Rights movement ending separate but (un)equal, the Post-Civil-Rights-new-Jim-Crow-mass-incarceration period (the elimination of which is only now gaining some political traction), and the modern day white supremacy movement and dog-whistle politics that resurfaced in earnest with the election of Obama and the birth of the Tea Party and its leader, Donald Trump.

    If Landrieu has a political motivation for the book, my take is that he wants to preserve or define his 30 year legacy in Louisiana politics. (In addition to being Mayor of New Orleans, he's served in the state legislature and as Lt. Governor.) That reputation has taken a hit within the white community because he took down the confederate monuments. He uses this book to explain why he did it and to educate his white counterparts about the true history of race. This lesson could not be delivered by Barack Obama or any other person whose skin is black because a black person would invariably be viewed as preaching to white folks about how they should feel. White folks have to get there on their own. And when they do, black folks must be forgiving so that we can heal as a nation and move forward together.

    So I hope readers will take this book for what it is. Don't gloss over the racial stuff and just classify the book as a political memoir. This is a history book and it's a race relations book written by someone on the front lines. It's assessable, well-written, and a must-read.

  • Christian

    What an inspiring book written in a very conversational, even avuncular tone!The first third of the book is Mr. Landrieu recollecting his upbringing that emphasized value for all people, the middle section details his challenges in contributing to deal with Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding New Orleans and the last part is about him spearheading a movement to take down American Civil War statues that were out of place and out of time. I greatly respect the soldier qualities of the Confederate com

    What an inspiring book written in a very conversational, even avuncular tone!The first third of the book is Mr. Landrieu recollecting his upbringing that emphasized value for all people, the middle section details his challenges in contributing to deal with Hurricane Katrina and rebuilding New Orleans and the last part is about him spearheading a movement to take down American Civil War statues that were out of place and out of time. I greatly respect the soldier qualities of the Confederate combatant but they were on the wrong side of humanity and history. It saddened but did not shock me to read how some of Mr. Landrieu’s white friends turned on or abandoned him.

  • Susan Iannaccone

    Extremely well written, scholarly and with heart. Love this book about a city I love. Couldn’t have come at a better time.

  • John Hammontree

    The South could use more leaders like Mitch Landrieu.

  • Stuart Rodriguez

    There’s a lot to like about this book. Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, gives, I think, an honest and down-to-earth account of his life, from his youth growing up in New Orleans, to his early tangles in state legislature with neo-Nazi David Duke, to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and finally, to the removal of the four Confederate monuments from New Orleans in 2017.

    I appreciated that Landrieu’s recollections felt clear-eyed, and he doesn’t mince words—he is vocal in his admonition of

    There’s a lot to like about this book. Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, gives, I think, an honest and down-to-earth account of his life, from his youth growing up in New Orleans, to his early tangles in state legislature with neo-Nazi David Duke, to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and finally, to the removal of the four Confederate monuments from New Orleans in 2017.

    I appreciated that Landrieu’s recollections felt clear-eyed, and he doesn’t mince words—he is vocal in his admonition of the racist themes that engendered white people’s support in-state of David Duke (and, more broadly, white support of Donald Trump), and does not equivocate about the cause of the Civil War (slavery), and about white supremacist power dynamics at play with regards to the Confederate monuments his administration finally removed. The themes he discusses won’t at all be news to a lot people, but the topics he discusses are, I think, a good learning opportunity for many other white folks, and that’s where this book is at its best.

    Otherwise, Landrieu spends a lot of time discussing his life growing up, his family, and leadership qualifications. I take these aspects of the book with a grain of salt because they feel like the prelude to a run for higher office, but much of the book is about his response to Hurricane Katrina, and how he (and the city/state/federal government) responded to the crisis and what actions he took to rebuild the city. It really was fascinating to learn what goes into that kind of crisis management, and hey, I’ll be honest: it worked, and if/when Landrieu runs for higher office, I’ll be paying attention.

    I listened to the audiobook, and Landrieu did a very good job with his own narration. He comes across as an affable, approachable, down-to-earth guy, and this book is a breeze to listen to (it’s less than six hours long).

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