Let's Dig Up The Rotting Bones Of Confederate Traitor (And KKK Founder) Nathan Bedford Forrest!
Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, by most accounts except the white supremacist ones, was quite the murderous, racist shithead. He was a wealthy slave trader, and he presided over one of the bloodiest massacres of the Civil War at Fort Pillow, where hundreds of black and white Union soldiers, and also black civilians, were murdered in cold blood after they had surrendered. The historian Richard Fuchs wrote that "The affair at Fort Pillow was simply an orgy of death, a mass lynching to satisfy the basest of conduct -- intentional murder -- for the vilest of reasons -- racism and personal enmity." Oh, and he was also the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, so HE SEEMS NICE.
And in Memphis, the city which adopted Forrest so long ago as its own, there's a big-ass statue of him in Health Sciences Park, in a racially diverse neighborhood that includes a world class medical center, dire poverty, gentrifying liberals, Victorian mansions, yummy restaurants, and the occasional murder problem. Buried underneath that statue are the rotting bigot bones of Forrest and his wife. And there's a push to move the statue and dig up the bones, but, though that push is PART of the aftermath of the Charleston murders which left nine dead and millions of Confederate flags tossed aside in shame, this fight's been going on a lot longer.
The park wasn't always called "Health Sciences Park." That changed in 2013, when City Councilman Lee Harris introduced a successful resolution to stop calling the park Forrest Park, since that's kind of horribly offensive for black Memphians to have to see every day. The new name is stupid, if accurate due to its proximity to the med center, but at least it's not covered in blood. At the time, Harris said, "I’m not afraid of our history. But I’m afraid of excluding some people from our parks and celebrating the conduct of the Confederacy.”
Yr Wonkette spoke to veteran black Memphis journalist (and our friend) Wendi Thomas about what it feels like to see that statue in such a prominent position, and she did not mince words:
"For years, I've thought that the statue was a big middle finger to black Memphians, who make up the majority of the city's population. It's this constant, hulking reminder that not that long ago, we were property, and until now, nobody thought it important to remove that reminder."
Thomas is now a columnist for the Memphis Flyer and a 2016 Nieman fellow at Harvard University, but she used to write a shit-stirring column forThe Commercial Appeal, Memphis's daily paper, whose offices sit just down the road from the statue, and she says that she chose to drive other routes to and from work, just to avoid seeing it.
She tells another story about her experiences as a black female journalist during that time:
In my last year at the Commercial Appeal, a white male reader got upset at the columns I wrote about the removal of a Nathan Bedford Forrest granite marker the Sons of the Confederate Veterans put in the park.
First he sent me an email calling me a nigger bitch. The next email, he threatened to rape me and throw me in the street. That's what's in the heart of some white people who remember fondly the fight to keep people who look like me in bondage. There's no way to put meaningful distance between black Memphians and that racist bile without taking down the statue.
The fight to get rid of the statue and dig up the bones has been mostly led by black politicians and activists, and though we doubt the average white Memphian shares the sentiments of the letter writer (certainly not the ones we hang out with), it shouldn't just be the black folks. A white person I highly respect commented recently, about the Confederate Flag, that she felt like people were attaching "too much emotion" to it, which is very easy to say when there's not a flag, or a statue, that serves as a daily reminder of racism, discrimination and oppression toward people like you.
The Memphis City Council has approved a resolution to move both statue and remains, but there are still hoops to jump through, because of course there are. For one, there's the 2013 Tennessee Heritage Protection Act (it's just as racist as it sounds), which "bars cities or counties from changing the names of parks, streets, monuments or just about anything memorializing nearly any war or military conflict in human history." And what's all that shit named after in the South? DING DING DING, collect your free TruckNutz at the door!
Forrest and his wife were originally buried at the historic Elmwood Cemetery, but were dug up and moved to their current location in 1905, so what's one more disinterment? Elmwood director Kim McCollum told city council chairman Myron Lowery that they'd be happy to dump the bones back into their original resting places, but that the statue "will require special attention that Elmwood Cemetery cannot provide.” Hahaha, Elmwood, we don't want that monstrosity fucking up our view either.
Hopefully, at long last, there is momentum toward removing this stain from such a prominent place, in a city which has endured so much racial pain, strife, discrimination and violence -- hell, Dr. King was shot not five minutes from the current site of the statue and grave.
So, what do you say we desecrate that Christian grave ONE MORE TIME! And as to the statue? Eh, melt it down, sell it for statue parts, don't care, fuck it and fuck him.