The Nathan Bedford Forrest bust has been an Achilles’ heel for many in Nashville for decades. It took the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement to help secure the removal of this nemesis from the hall of our State Capitol. By a vote of nine to two, the state Capitol Commission voted that the bust to be removed. It may possibly be replaced to the Tennessee State Museum. I know as an African American, I am not alone in being thoroughly elated by the vote for its removal.
This symbol of White supremacy and racism should have never been honored in the first place, but many White Tennesseans with Confederate ancestors hailed it as a commemoration of their southern heritage and legacy. Never mind it was a source of hurt and disrespect to the many African Americans (descendants of slaves) residing in Tennessee. The Tennessee Historic Commission has yet to vote to decide to put the bust in a museum. Unfortunately, the vote by the Tennessee Historical Commission will not be until October. But the first hurdle has been won.
While Many Tennesseans can rejoice, one cannot overlook the events and pressure that had to occur to effect this change—especially when other southern towns and cities had already rallied to remove their own monuments to racism and White supremacy. The movement to eradicate these monuments consists of an alliance of conscientious young people of all races, ethnicities, genders, religions, and social levels coming together to call out social injustices and demand change.
In all honesty, young White Americans have taken the lead in many of these protests and demonstrations advocating for the equality and justice for African Americans and people of color. The movement is about eliminating an old racist and privileged regime and building a new system where everyone is included and treated the same. Still, you’ll find some older Whites crying bloody murder and claiming their rights were violated—even at the expense of hurting and alienating others.
Of all Confederate officers or generals to honor, Forrest had to be the worst. He was a slave trader and owner and was the general responsible for the killing of hundreds of Black Union troops who surrendered at Fort Pillow. He was also, infamously, the first Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. Some rationalized that he repented and disclaimed the Klu Klux Klan toward the end of his life, but the damage had already been done.
While it took the actions of several special groups demonstrating outside the State Capitol for weeks and months, special thanks should be given to some representatives who have been working years to remove this abomination. The removal of this bust has been a bane in my and so many people’s existence. I personally asked several elected officials to do what they could to bring attention to the bust and help expedite its removal.
I know without any reservations that state Sen. Brenda Gilmore and state Rep. Harold Love have worked diligently for years to remove the bust—sometimes without much support from the Black community. Their eloquent arguments before the State Capitol Commission were well received and helpful in the bust’s removal. There are not enough ‘thanks’ to adequately express our gratitude for their determination and perseverance in the fight to remove this hurtful, divisive bust representative of slavery and White supremacy.
You would have thought that the Black Nashville community would have worked harder organizing, rallying, protesting, and marching to pressure authorities to remove the bust. But that’s another story. We must acknowledge that it took pressure from our White allies rallying to help bring about the bust’s removal.
We have to give due diligence to Gov. Bill Lee in his support for the Tennessee Capitol Committee to do the right thing and remove this symbol of division so hurtful and disrespectful to many Tennesseans. It couldn’t have been a popular thing with many of his Confederate-supporting followers. But he appeared sincere, advocating for a more perfect union, bringing about a bond of peace.
I hope in future endeavors the Black community will be more diligent in supporting those elected representatives advocating for our community. By ignoring their efforts, they were often ‘left hanging.’ I also mean no disrespect to any elected official who helped in this endeavor whom I have failed to mention.
Kudos also go to the young people who kept vigil around the Capitol and those arrested while manifesting their right to peaceful demonstrations. It is quite evident the younger generation is set on being harbingers of change, along with their good-hearted allies who are dedicated to doing the right thing. They are willing to endure the consequences of ‘walking the walk.’ Thank you for helping renew my faith in the goodness of human beings. I will sleep much better knowing changes are coming. Thank you, thank you thank you.