BY ADAM GANUCHEAU
When New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu first publicly called for the removal of four of the city’s Confederate monuments, he was sharing the stage with community leaders brought together in part by the Ole Miss-based William Winter Institute.
Landrieu made the announcement in June 2015 at a program marking the one-year anniversary of citywide discussions facilitated by The Winter Institute, an organization housed at Ole Miss that serves as a facilitator for race-related conversations across the nation.
The Winter Institute’s work, including its work in New Orleans, does not push particular ideas or outcomes, according to current and former Winter Institute leaders and community leaders who have hired the group. Instead, the group works to host constructive, civil conversations that include a diverse sampling of stakeholders in the host community.
Early Wednesday, contractors, veiled by masks and helmets in fear of harm from pro-monument activists, removed a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T Beauregard, the third of the the four monuments slated to be removed by New Orleans officials.
“The work of the William Winter Institute jump started a pretty critical conversation in this city about race and reconciliation and how to move this city forward,” said Tyronne Walker, Landrieu’s communications director. “The institute played a critical role in providing technical assistance and support to facilitators of Welcome Table circles, and they facilitated many retreats the circles created.”
In the months following Landrieu’s announcement, the city has become ground zero for the debate over what to do with public Confederate memorials, particularly in the South. Several groups tried, unsuccessfully, to block the removal of the monuments in court, and clashes between protesters near the monument sites have garnered national headlines.
With the big-picture goal of improving New Orleans’ racial climate in mind,…