Story at a glance

  • The bust of Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest was removed from the Tennessee Capitol building Friday
  • Forrest’s bust was a feature in the capitol for nearly 43 years.
  • “Removing the likeness of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a place of honor in Tennessee’s Capitol is a symbol for much needed reconciliation,” state Sen. Raumesh Akbari.

The bust of Confederate General and early Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest was removed from the Tennessee Capitol building Friday after sitting on its perch for nearly 43 years. 

Tennessee’s State Capitol Commission voted earlier in July to remove the controversial likeness and voted again Thursday to secure the removal with a 5-2 vote, The Associated Press (AP) reported. The busts of U.S. Admiral David Farragut, a Civil War-era leader of the Union Navy, and Admiral Albert Gleaves, who served in both the Spanish-American war and World War I, will also be relocated to The Tennessee State Museum. 

The removals are part of an agreement that military leaders should not be displayed in the Capitol, according to the AP.

Forrest served as a cavalry general in the Civil War and was a powerful force among a contingent of people who sought to retain white dominance via terror after the war. 


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State Sen. Douglas Henry, a Democrat, defended the statue’s placement in 1978, 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.”

But to members of the state legislature’s Black Caucus, removing Forrest from a position of prominence in the state’s Capitol marked a step forward in the ongoing fight for equality.  

“Removing the likeness of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a place of honor in Tennessee’s Capitol is a symbol for much needed reconciliation. No doubt we have work to do to achieve equality and justice for all people, but today’s vote shows that progress is possible,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari, who chairs the state senate’s Democratic caucus


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Published on Jul 23, 2021