Tennessee Finally Removes Crime Against Art/Humanity Statue Honoring Racist Traitor Founder Of KKK

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Tennessee Finally Removes Crime Against Art/Humanity Statue Honoring Racist Traitor Founder Of KKK
Photo: Brent Moore, Creative Commons license 2.0

What a great day in President Joe Biden’s America! They’re finally removing that hideous Nathan Bedford Forrest statue in Tennessee. Located on private property alongside Interstate 65 south of downtown, the statue depicts the former Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan riding a horse. Well, at least that’s presumably the creator’s intent. The statue is so fucking ugly it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on.

Just look at this shit:

The proportions are all wrong. Either Forrest is Lilliputian or the horse once belonged to Paul Bunyan, who was not a Confederate sympathizer. Forrest’s head looks like it dispenses Pez, and his face is twisted and inhuman. That part is probably accurate.

The statue belonged to Bill Dorris, and during his lifetime, there was an ongoing battle to remove the statue or block it from public view. It was vandalized several times and even painted bright pink, as if Forrest deserved to be fabulous. Dorris left the coat of paint intact because he believed it would draw more attention to the statue, which is objectively unattractive.

Dorris reportedly insisted that Forrest, a known traitor, was a standup guy who belonged to the Klan during its early, funny days and not when it went overboard with the cross burnings and racial terrorism. This is demonstrably false. The Klan was founded in resistance to the federal government’s racially progressive Reconstruction policies. Author Andrew Ward wrote: "In the spring of 1867, Forrest and his dragons launched a campaign of midnight parades; 'ghost' masquerades; and 'whipping' and even killing Negro voters and white Republicans, to scare blacks off voting and running for office.”

The handiwork of “sculptor” Jack Kershaw from Nashville, the tacky polyurethane statue was constructed between 1996 and 1998, when the Spice Girls were on the radio. It’s hardly a historical artifact. Kershaw was also the attorney who represented James Earl Ray, who assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. Everyone gets a defense in America, but if you want to demonstrate that you aren’t racist for defending King’s racist killer, you probably shouldn’t have a side gig sculpting racist statues.

Kershaw didn’t suggest Dr. King’s death was suicide — a classic lynching defense — but he did claim his client was an unwitting dupe in a larger conspiracy, which the King family later believed. However, Kershaw was personally a racist scumbag who helped found the white supremacist League of the South, a neo-Confederate group that promoted Southern secession. That’s unfortunately not a fringe belief in the GOP these days.

Dorris provided his buddy Kershaw with the space to sculpt and the materials necessary for his crime against art. All told, he spent almost $80,000 on the statue since the mid-'90s. He obviously suffered from significant economic anxiety. He described Kershaw as a mediocre artist but a great thinker. Unfortunately, racist thoughts don’t produce great sculptures.

Dorris died last November, which was a great loss to his faithful dog, who inherited his estate. However, it also meant that Tennessee could rid itself of the tumorous statue. The Sons of Confederate Veterans were supposed to receive the land on which the statue was displayed, if that’s what you’re calling it, but the whole thing was tied up in probate court as is usually expected when someone leaves their assets to a dog.

It’s hard to care about the specifics of a dead racist’s last will and testament. What’s important now is that the Forrest statue was removed from public sight Tuesday morning.

“This has been a national embarrassment,” Democratic state Sen. Heidi Campbell said at the scene of the removal. “I’m so excited. This is great news. It’s just so hurtful to people, not to mention it’s heinously ugly.”

Good riddance, Forrest.

[Tennessean / USA Today]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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