Rep. Camper responds to Gov. Lee’s statement on repealing Nathan Bedford Forrest Day

Rep. Karen Camper of Memphis was named House Minority Leader. Camper is the first African American and the first African American woman to hold the position.

Tenn. House Democratic Leader Karen Camper expressed her support in changing the state law that recognizes Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee, after Gov. Bill Lee wrote in a tweet that he would consider working with the General Assembly in changing the law.

“I want to thank Gov. Lee for taking the time to look at how the recognition of Nathan Bedford Forrest Day affects the lives of Tennesseans,” said Camper. “The situation that surrounds the life and legacy of Gen. Forrest has become a divisive issue for our state, and as shown by coverage across America, a divisive issue for our nation. I think that changing the law would be a great step towards healing some of the wounds that are reopened every year on the observance of Gen. Forrest’s birthday.”

Lee signed the proclamation to recognize July 13 as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee. The Forrest proclamation, along with five other days of observance that are required to be signed by the governor, originated from laws passed in the early 1970s during the height of the Civil Rights movement. A bust of Forrest was placed in the state capitol building in 1978 and still remains there today.

“Members of the General Assembly, visitors and school children pass under the visage of Nathan Bedford Forrest every day in our state capitol, a building that belongs to the people of Tennessee,” Camper said. “He (Forrest) created the Ku Klux Klan, an organization whose purpose (then and now) was to terrorize African Americans and many other marginalized groups after the Civil War. Statues honoring Forrest and other Confederate leaders did not appear in our state after the Civil War but over a century later, when the Civil Rights struggle was at its zenith. Gov. Lee and every member of the General Assembly must come together and lead our state and be an example for the nation on how to move forward in the 21st century, and I am excited for our opportunity to make this lasting change.”