If you believed Penn State’s decision to remove Joe Paterno’s statue was as easy a call as it gets, you were wrong. Community organizer Malika Fortier is gathering signatures for a petition at Change.org, asking the Selma City Council of Alabama to stop plans to expand a monument that celebrates General Nathan Bedford Forrest — a historical monument to white supremacy. Forrest’s most notable trifecta includes being a slave-trader before The Civil War, leading the Fort Pillow Massacre during the war, and leading the Ku Klux Klan after the war.
Feel free to stop reading and sign Fortier’s petition at Change.org here.
While Forrest is also well-known and lauded by supporters for his tactical military brilliance, fewer are willing to engage in such compartmentalized homages to the undeniable oratorical or political skills of Adolf Hitler. It just doesn’t seem that important. Or as Clutch Magazine puts it, It’s Not Heritage, It’s Hate.
The big picture is that Selma is not alone. According to wikipedia:
- Tennessee alone had 32 dedicated historical markers linked to Forrest.
- Tennessee legislature established July 13 as “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.”
- Forrest City, Arkansas was named in his honor.
- The ROTC building at Middle Tennessee State University was named Forrest Hall in his honor, and a major push to change its name failed.
- High schools are named for Forrest in Chapel Hill, Tennessee, and Jacksonville, Florida.
- In 2008 the Duval County School Board voted 5-2 against changing the name in Jacksonville. The school was named for Forrest in 1959 at the urging of the Daughters of the Confederacy because they were upset about the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
- On February 10, 2011 Fox News Channel reported that there is a proposal to issue specialty license plates honoring Forrest to mark the 150th anniversary of the “War Between the States”
- In 2005, Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey started a [failed] effort to move the statue over Forrest’s grave and rename Forrest Park.
In supporting the renaming of the Confederate parks, Rev. L. LaSimba Gray, president of the Memphis Chapter of Rainbow PUSH/Coalition remarked:
“The reason racism keeps emerging is because symbols such as this are still present. You wouldn’t place a statue of Hitler in the middle of a Jewish community and there’s no validation for having a statue in Memphis of a war criminal and traitor who wanted to enslave an entire race of people.”
While Forrest wasn’t successful in enslaving an entire race, he was still the most successful slave holder in Memphis where he amassed a millionaire’s fortune. The 2005 Memphis episode prompted author Tim Bounds to write an excellent paper: Remembering Nathan Bedford Forrest: White Supremacy and the Memphis Monument. It is worth a read to learn more about Forrest and history, but also an understanding of the mind-bending racial psychosis suffered by many of Forrest’s apologists.
The removal of Joe Paterno’s statue should not be an end of the discussion, but the beginning of a much longer conversation of who we choose to honor and why we still honor them. Outside of The Happy Valley bubble, calls for the removal of Paterno’s statue were easy, but there are still a whole lot of easier ones out there. A great place to start is with is General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Petition at Change.org here.
Part II: Why Paterno’s Statue Was Pulled, but Slaveholders Continue to Be Honored…
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