Story at a glance
- Tennessee lawmakers formed a commission to determine if the statue of former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest should stand on capitol grounds.
- Critics say Hensley’s bill is solely due to his disagreement with the commission’s vote.
The Black Lives Matter civil rights protests that occurred in the U.S. over the past year prompted a national referendum on U.S. statues and iconography associated with a history of systemic racism.
Due to this mounting social pressure, the Tennessee General Assembly composed a historical commission to evaluate whether or not a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a prominent Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader, should be removed from state capitol grounds.
The commission came back with a verdict on March 8: Bedford Forrest’s likeness should not stand.
Now, a group of state senators are working to remove all of the members from the commission, just two weeks after their ruling.
Local outlets report that this effort is spearheaded by Sen. Joey Hensley (R), who sponsored a bill that would replace the 29 members on the commission with 12 new members.
The bill has yet to be introduced before the state legislature.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) appointed 24 of the 29 commission members. Other former Confederate states, including Virginia, Louisiana and Alabama, have exhibited similar divisions when it comes to removing statues that harken to periods of legal slavery in the U.S.
Sen. Janice Bowling (R) supports the bill, stating “In our culture today it seems there is a desire to cancel history, cancel culture, cancel narratives that are just based on fact. I think that that's a dangerous precedent.”
Alternatively, other state Republicans are not in favor of the bill, with Sen. Mike Bell arguing the desire to replace the commission’s members stems from Hensley’s disappointment with their verdict.
"That's the process that we created for removing a monument," he said. "Every time we get a decision about a monument or a statue that we don't like, then we want to come back and change it again? If we want to put it in our hands, then let's just do a bill to do away with it completely and let the legislature vote on it."