Tennessee Gonna Keep Bust Of Ol' Racist Traitor War Crimer In State Capitol, Because 'Heritage'

Post-Racial America
Tennessee Gonna Keep Bust Of Ol' Racist Traitor War Crimer In State Capitol, Because 'Heritage'
The one in the Tennessee statehouse is on the left. The batshit one on the right isn't in this story; we just like it.

As Jim Crow-era monuments to Confederate generals are being removed all over the place, and even Britons and Belgians take down statues to their own historical racist evildoers, a committee in the Tennessee state House killed off a bid to remove a statue of notorious Confederate war criminal — and first Grand Wizard of the KKK — Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol building in Nashville. The "Naming, Designating and Private Acts Committee" nixed a proposal to remove the big ugly bust of Forrest, which is such an important part of Tennessee history that it's been in the Capitol since 1978. Clearly, if the statue were removed, schoolchildren would be deprived of the chance to learn about the Disco Era.

The resolution calling for replacing the statue honoring Forrest was sponsored by state Rep. Rick Staples, who offered some suggestions for Tenneseeans who could be honored in place of the slave trader who commanded the massacre of black Union soldiers who were trying to surrender during the battle of Fort Pillow in 1864. It would be nice to honor someone who doesn't bring shame on the state, like perhaps Anne Davis, who advocated for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or William F. Yardley, who during Reconstruction became the first black man to run for governor of Tennessee. For Crom's sake, they could just put a statue of Dolly Parton in that niche and everyone will love it.

The resolution, which had been introduced in January, was defeated in an 11-5 vote.

In related news, the state Senate passed a bill Monday that would make it more difficult to ever remove the Forrest statue, by adding two new members to the State Capitol Commission. Technically, the bill was only supposed to extend the existence of the commission, but an amendment to add the chief clerks of the House and Senate to the panel was added; as long as Republicans control the state lege, that will make it far harder for others on the commission to get rid of the racist bust. Please remind idiots who jabber about Democrats founding the KKK that it's Republicans fighting like crazy to keep honoring the group's first Lord High Dipshit.

A protest was held at the Capitol Wednesday to call for the removal of the statue. No one was beaten into a coma, so that's nice.

The Nashville Tennessean notes that the state's Republican governor, Bill Lee, "initially was opposed to taking action on the bust," but that

his position on the issue evolved over time. Lee eventually announced last year he was supportive of adding additional historic context next to the bust, though it remains to be seen whether Lee in the future will try to use his influence to have it removed.

Lee has also been pushing legislation that would free him of the obligation to proclaim a statewide Nathan Bedford Forrest Day each year. Last year, Lee said the only reason he signed the proclamation was that he had to, under the 1969 legislation that created the holiday, as well as days honoring Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis.

Hmm, 1969, you say? And the Forrest bust has been in the Capitol only since the late 1970s?

Willamette University US history professor Seth Cotlar noted on the Twitters yesterday, "As statues come down, it's useful to pay close attention to when they were put up," because that tells you a lot more about the meaning of those statues than it does about the people and events they supposedly commemorate. If only we could think of any possible reason Tennessee's leaders in years following the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts would have wanted to call attention to slavery-defending traitors from over a hundred years before.

Also, in other statue news, statues of Christopher Columbus were damaged in Boston and in Richmond, Virginia Tuesday. The statue in Boston had its head removed and left on the ground, while the Virginia monument to the bad navigator who miscalculated the Earth's circumference (even though the ancient Greeks got it right in the Third Century) was dragged off its base and thrown into a lake, which gave us this memorable take:

The Boston statue will be removed from the North End park where it stood; Mayor Marty Walsh said it would be placed in storage, and that a final decision on what to do with it would come later. The Columbus statue had been vandalized and painted with "Black Lives Matter" several times before, so Walsh said,

given the conversations that we're certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we're also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of this action.

The Richmond statue was erected in 1927 after a push by the city's Italian-American community (oh look, it's not about "Columbus" at all, but ethnic pride and belonging). It was the focus of protests Tuesday by indigenous activists who linked the fight for Native American rights to the larger struggle against white supremacy.

Vanessa Bolin, a member of the Richmond Indigenous Society, stood on a truck bed in the shadow of the statue and spoke to the crowd. She pointed out the parallel struggles of indigenous and black people in America.

"This continent is built on the blood and the bones of our ancestors, but it is built off the backs and the sweat and the tears and the blood and the bones of Africans," Bolin said.

Another protester, Joseph Rogers, drew cheers from the crowd when he said "this is Powhatan land." Needless to say, the whole thing triggered white nationalists and their allies, like history-faker Dinesh D'souza, who tweeted some grade-A pseudohistory and was immediately corrected by a real historian.

Also, don't forget the slavery!

In any case, the Richmond statue was fished out of the shallow lake Wednesday; a spokesperson for the city's parks and recreation department said its current location could not be disclosed, and that possible damage to the statue had not been assessed.

Then last night in Richmond, protesters tore down a statue of Jefferson Davis that had stood since 1907 on the city's Racist Disneyland, Monument Avenue. How very sad.

Confederate statue torn down in Richmond, Virginiayoutu.be

Richmond's mayor and all nine members of the City Council support the removal of the Davis statue and three other Confederate statues owned by the city. One down, three to go.

We should also note that Madeline Odent, an American curator of a museum in the UK, stirred up a lot of rightwing anger the other day with some helpful tips on commonly-available substances (such as tomatoes and salt water) that should never be applied to bronze statues, since they could cause severe corrosion.

Following the backlash, Odent has protected her Twitter account, and police say they're investigating whether her public discussion of fairly basic chemistry (including tomatoes) broke any laws. And people who regularly hint that America needs some Second-Amendment solutions are calling her a Maoist who wants to erase history.

Gosh, once the statues are gone, how will anyone know anything about history? It'll be like the history of WWII, which no Americans know anything about because our country has no statues honoring Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, or Hideki Tojo.

[WSIR / Tennessean / WBZ-TV / NPR / Richmond Times-Dispatch / WKRN / Seth Cotlar on Twitter / NPR]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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