In what has turned out to be one of the most blatant and obvious acts of subterfuge to occur in recent memory, the Democratic partisan politico Robert Mann and the LSU Board of Supervisors appear to have colluded and concurred on the destruction of the history of Louisiana’s flagship school.
On November 2nd, Mann penned a column proposing the never-before-publicized opinion that LSU should disgrace a deceased 19th century professor and war veteran by stripping his name from a very prominent street at The Ole War Skule. Mann states that “a group of my students learned after conducting a comprehensive inventory of LSU, four buildings and streets on campus are named after Confederates while only three are named for African-Americans.”
Not-so-curiously, shortly before the editorial, the board of supervisors decided in its October meeting to rename the street Mann mentioned along with a variety of others, ranging from a street named for an obscure (but historically significant) football coach from the early 20th Century (Mike Donahue) all the way to the first American Governor of Louisiana (Claiborne).
Mann’s argument used the example that after Governor Richard Leche went to prison, his name was removed from the LSU Law Building. Mann’s analogy is flawed and does not line up with the 2017 erasure of history. The building was named for Leche in 1937 while he was still serving as Governor. Mann’s argument is aligned with those who compare removing Robert E. Lee to the toppling of Communist statues in the Czech Republic or Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Those were overthrows of government. Leche’s name was put up while he was in office. Semmes and Claiborne were honored by past generations after the fact. Raphael Semmes did not put his own name on the street in front of the Union.
Further, Mann penned a column in March 2017 titled “Germany has much to teach us about our Confederate memorials.” Mann began the piece writing, “I was surprised to see Berliners hadn’t demanded a new name for one of their city’s prominent thoroughfares — Karl-Marx-Allee.” Of course, this piece was another improper analogy as Mann classified the Confederate States of America as similar to Nazi Germany. But Mann concluded by writing, “let’s learn from Germany and the wise reuse and interpretation of its Nazi symbols and sites. Let’s use these statues and memorials to own, understand and honestly explain our history.” And then eight months later Mann’s leading the intolerant charge back home, as if he forgot his eye opening trip abroad.
The articles written covering the news of the LSU name changes specifically interviewed and quoted Mann, offered a very convenient link to his editorial, and noted that the board decision was made long before his column was released.
First, Mann has no merit for being an authority on this matter from these news outlets. Mann is a political historian—not a U.S. History or war Historian—a political operative, and a journalism professor. This means Mann has studied how politicians have successfully done things, himself worked to accomplish goals politically on the left, and understands the power of mass communication. All of this makes him very capable of controlling the narrative and context of these matters, but give him zero understanding of who Raphael Semmes really was. Reporters should interview actual U.S. History Professors, war historians, or others with an outside perspective.
Second, the fact that Mann penned an editorial laying the ground work suggesting this type of low comedy before it went public indicates that he was involved in the discussions with the LSU Board. So a left-wing professor was apprised to these discussions before they were released to the alumni and general public. It represents the worst kind of political collusion where an elite few make politic behind closed doors.
While no polling has been done on something so iconoclastic as dishonoring US and Louisiana veterans by renaming streets, all polling relating to the destruction of war memorials has indicated large majorities of Louisianians oppose such action. It would stand to reason that the same result would occur if this question were posed.
One must wonder if Mann, who is a professor of classes subsidized by conservative tax payers that are ostensibly taught impartially in the areas of political history and journalism, actually separates his off-campus blogging and editorializing from what he teaches future journalists. These student-journalists he touches will one day control the narratives that pour into our computers, phones, and televisions in real time via the 24 hour news cycle.
Mann and his ilk on the LSU Board fail the common decency test. Simply put, if they despise an institution, its founders, and those who gave sacrificially to establish such an institution; why would they draw a paycheck from such an institution? If it weren’t for the generation of the 1860s-1920s, LSU would have disbanded and Mann and fellow transplant LSU President F. King Alexander would not have a school from which they could extract elite “one percenter” level salaries.
The LSU Board was hoping to cloak their decision in “plausible deniability”—they grouped the renaming efforts in with a large group of name changes. They are hoping no one really realizes their Orwellian activities are merely the beginning. Having the cover that these names were not connected with LSU sufficiently in their opinion to justify their names is a cop-out. The founders of this school and over a century worth of LSU leaders, students, and alums felt these names appropriate. Generations of Louisianians honored these men and their names, in addition to the large majority who stand to honor them this day. Mann is wrong. His backers on the board are wrong. They are not in any way reflecting the wishes of patriotic LSU Tigers, past or present.
Lastly, they also know coming for Col. David Boyd Hall today is a bridge too far. A few too many conservatives who built this university are still alive and still writing checks. They start small with Semmes, who was only a professor for a short time. Down the road they will come for Beauregard Hall, Middleton Library, the Boyd Halls, and yes, even modern day Robert E. Lee-honoring Patrick F. Taylor. To the barbarians, none of these men mattered.
The board and Mann enrich themselves at the trough built by these real heroes and stomp on the grounds these men cultivated for us. Since previous generations’ heroes, veterans, and philanthropists can’t be painted as “progressives,” the LSU Board is saying they have no place of recognition here in this “tolerant” climate. Like Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans, these actions are the defining example of intolerance.
Mann complained that not enough buildings and sites are named for African Americans on campus. LSU has a litany of areas that could memorialize historical figures and contributors without altering those chosen by past generations. Instead of removing names, LSU should be enhancing other parts of campus to create true diversity. But they are attacking Southern heritage and erasing history, because no matter what the political historians argues, changing Raphael Semmes Road is editing the historical integrity of LSU. They are also setting the precedent that future generations may come in and rename things they honor because times changed.
If Confederaphobia is the modus operandi of Mann and the LSU Board, any effort to remove signs of the Confederacy from campus is hypocritical if they do not change the mascot of the Fighting Tigers. A name originally attributed to a Louisiana company in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, it grew in reputation as a proud, legendary, and honorable fighting force and is the source of LSU’s mascot.
The road of historic cleansing continues on. The board’s cognitive dissonance is notable in another glaring name change needed, the name of the state. Louisiana seceded from the Union and fought for the Confederacy. If the LSU Board and Bob Mann want to rid LSU of Confederate memories, they should call for the renaming of Louisiana. Until then, the 75% of Louisiana that understands the importance of preserving our history needs to hammer the legislature and governor to pass a preservation law to take future cultural atrocities off the table.