Story at a glance
- Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust has been protested by Black Americans since it was placed there in the 1980s.
- Now, the Tennessee Capitol Commission has voted to relocate the bust along with two others.
- The removal is one of dozens of Confederate memorials around the country as a result of recent protests.
More than 40 years after Black Americans protested the unveiling of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust in the Tennessee State capitol, it will be removed.
Tennessee's State Capitol Commission voted 9-2 to remove the bust of the Confederate general, slaveholder and grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan along with two others. The busts of Forrest, U.S. Admiral David Farragut, a leader in the Union Navy during the Civil War and U.S. Admiral Albert Gleaves, who served during the Spanish-American War and World War I, will be relocated to the state museum as part of an exhibit "honoring Tennessee military heroes."
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The decision was met with cheers from advocates who have pushed for the bust’s removal, citing the racist past of the three figures.
BREAKING: THE CAPITOL COMMISSION VOTES TO REMOVE THE KKK GRAND WIZARD BUST FROM THE TENNESSEE STATE CAPITOL!!!! pic.twitter.com/XFnQ7PC4kv— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) July 9, 2020
Unlike many other statues of Confederate generals that have been removed in recent weeks across the United States, this bust was not installed until much later after the Civil War and Reconstruction period. The Tennessean reported that the state legislature ordered the production of the bust in 1973, after which the Sons of Confederate Veterans and others helped raise the necessary funds.
Despite protests from members of the Black community, it was unveiled in 1978.
Sen. Douglas Henry, a Democrat, defended it at the time, telling the Tennessean, "I don’t think it’s an insult to anyone who recognizes a man who had commendable qualities. In his time and place, Forrest was a man of compassion and humanity."
"Although times and circumstances change, the point I would like to emphasize is that the essential qualities of a good character do not change.”
Protesters have sought its removal ever since, even as it was moved from outside the doors of the House of Representatives to the main corridor between the House and Senate chambers to make room for a bust honoring Sampson W. Keeble, the state's first Black lawmaker. Finally, as larger statues and monuments fell across the country, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Bob Corker added their support for its removal.
"Forrest represents pain and suffering and brutal crimes committed against African Americans, and that pain is very real for our fellow Tennesseans," Lee reportedly said ahead of the vote. "The Nathan Bedford Forrest bust has spurred a heated debate that began long before all of this national ruckus on monuments that we're seeing play out today."
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