The fleur de lis, a French symbol used by royal families dating back to the 13th century, and emblazoned on the New Orleans Saints helmet, is now being called a symbol of slavery, drawing comparisons to the recent uproar against the Confederate battle flag.
“As an African I find it painful, and I think people whose ancestors were enslaved here may feel it even harder than I do as an African,” said slave historian Dr. Ibrahima Seck to WWLTV.
He connects the usage of the fleur de lis, to “code noir,” or black code, which was adopted in Louisiana in 1724, and used to govern the state’s slave population.
Seck said a slave caught running away, “would be taken before a court and the sentence would be being branded on one shoulder and with the fleur de lis, and then they would crop their ears.”
Seck isn’t alone. Tulane history professor Terence Fitzmorris said, “It was a brutal way of scarring someone and also identifying someone as a particular troublemaker.”
The symbol is also used currently in the coat of arms for the King of Spain.
Fitzmorris, though, won’t go as far as to say it should be removed: “The fleur de lis was the symbol of a monarchy. The United States of America was a slave-holding republic, not just the south. Where do you stop? Do you get rid of all symbols?”
The symbol is emblazoned throughout the city of New Orleans, and is the official symbol of Louisiana after Governor Bobby Jindal signed a law in 2008. Due to this fact, Seck also believes it shouldn’t be taken down as it is now embraced as a symbol of unity.