Tuesday, February 2, 2021
By Eli A. Haddow, marketing associate

Editor’s note: This story is released in conjunction with The Historic New Orleans Collection’s 2021 Symposium, “Recovered Voices: Black Activism in New Orleans from Reconstruction to the Present Day.” The interactive website includes books, stories, videos, and a schedule for the virtual program, which will take place March 5–7. Learn more here


In March 2021, The Historic New Orleans Collection will publish Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in Reconstruction Louisiana, a graphic history that, for the first time, tells the story of Oscar James Dunn. In 1868 Dunn was elected as Louisiana’s lieutenant governor, the first Black man to hold that office in American history. His role in community organizing during the 1860s made him a fixture of the state’s political scene, and in office he fought back against corruption while boldly championing causes including universal male suffrage, civil rights, and public school integration. 

After his sudden death in 1871, Dunn’s story faded from history, due in no small part to the erasure of Black Americans’ accomplishments during Reconstruction by white historians. Now, 150 years after his death, Dunn’s own descendant, Brian K. Mitchell, has reconstructed his story through years of research. To present this narrative, Mitchell, along with THNOC’s Nick Weldon, chose a graphic approach and brought on illustrator Barrington S. Edwards to bring Dunn’s story, and hundreds of archival resources, to life. 

Using a single page as an example, Weldon explains in this short video how primary sources served as the foundation for the visual story told in Monumental. For more on this book and the recovered voices of Black activists from Reconstruction New Orleans, visit our interactive Symposium 2021 webpage. 

To learn more about Oscar Dunn and the making of Monumental, register for THNOC's Symposium 2021; creators Brian K. Mitchell and Nick Weldon will discuss the project at the event on Saturday, March 6, at 1 p.m. (CT).