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Monumental tells, for the first time, the incredible story of Oscar James Dunn, a New Orleanian born into slavery who became America’s first Black lieutenant governor and acting governor. A champion of universal suffrage, civil rights, and integrated public schools, Dunn fought for radical change during the early years of Reconstruction in Louisiana, a post–Civil War era rife with corruption, subterfuge, and violence. In life, allies and rivals praised him for his integrity and political talent. After his mysterious death, at the height of his feud with Governor Henry Clay Warmoth, New Orleans honored Dunn with one of the largest funeral processions in its history, and he was hailed as an African American icon. The state approved a monument to be erected in his memory, but it was never built. Dunn’s accomplishments, and those of many other Black politicians who emerged during Reconstruction, faded from memory.

A graphic history informed by newly discovered primary sources, Monumental resurrects, in vivid detail, Louisiana and New Orleans after the Civil War—and presents an iconic American life that never should have been forgotten. Contextual essays, a map, timeline, and endnotes add layers of depth to the narrative. Monumental is a story of determination, scandal, betrayal—and how one man’s principled fight for equality and justice may have cost him everything.

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