Mayor Kenneth Nail says he’s heard nothing but approval from Hanceville residents since reaching out to leaders in New Orleans with an offer to take that city’s now-banned Confederate monuments off their hands.
“Everybody who’s approached me has said they think it’s a great idea, and it seems like I haven’t offended anybody — which is never the goal,” said Nail Saturday.
“One of my good friends, who is black, even messaged me on Facebook and told me, ‘Look, some of my ancestors were forced to fight in that war [the Civil War], and I think it’s a good idea to remember these things.’ He told me, ‘I drive a truck, and I’ll even go down there and pick them up if the city needs me to.’”
Nail recently sent a letter to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, inquiring about the fate of four pieces of statuary removed from display in the wake of a 2015 New Orleans city council vote to censor from public view images of Confederate figures in the historic port city.
The monuments depict Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and the Battle of Liberty Place — a postwar insurrection, ultimately quelled by the 22nd U.S. Infantry, that was fought on and around New Orleans’ Canal Street.
In Louisiana, controversy over the statues’ removal is ongoing, with litigation pending from the move’s opponents to have the statues restored at their former sites.
Nail said he doesn’t know what New Orleans intends to do with the statues, and that he’s only interested in obtaining them if they can be had at little to no cost for his city.
“I sent the letter to see what they might do,” said Nail. “I don’t know if they’re going to sell them, give them away, or something else. Honestly, we’re a small town, and if they end up selling them off for a lot of money, of course we couldn’t do that. If they do give them away, then I would approach the [Hanceville] city council to see how they want to proceed.
“My view is that it’s an opportunity; a great teaching tool that we could have in our city,” he added. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to reflect on all our struggles, and to celebrate how far we’ve come — while clearly acknowledging that we had those struggles. Different symbols mean different things to different people. We definitely don’t need to forget or be blind to history, which I think some well-meaning folks in our society are kind of pushing for, intentionally or unintentionally.
So far, there’s been no response from New Orleans. But, said Nail, win or lose, he’ll be content with the outcome.
“What I told the mayor, and what I’ve told everyone I’ve talked about it with, is that, for me, remembering these people and these events is about heritage — not hate,” he said. “Anybody who knows me knows that I’m no racist. But ultimately, it will be up to the folks in New Orleans — and up to the people who live in Hanceville, and the Hanceville City Council — to decide what — if anything — happens next.”
Nail's letter to New Oreleans:
Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu
1300 Perdido ST.
New Oreleans, La.
Dear Mayor Landrieu,
If I may introduce myself, I am Kenneth Nail, the Mayor of the City of Hanceville, Alabama. I would like to speak to you about the Confederate Monuments in your city.
I understand that symbols mean different things to different people. The symbols or Confederate Monuments that are seen as offensive symbols of hate in New Orleans are seen in our city as highly regarded symbols of heritage and struggles faced by all people.
I would like to respectfully request for you and your city council to consider donating these monuments to the City of Hanceville. We have located in our city a Veterans Memorial Park that honors all Veterans and all struggles. We would put these monuments on display there. They would be safely protected and enjoyed by all people who visit the park.
We would truly consider it an honor and a blessing for you to kindly make allowance for our humble request.
Sincerely at your service,
Mayor Kenneth Nail