The body of the slave trader is removed and tensions increase in Memphis


A Confederate flag is being raised as people surround the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest at a rally in Memphis, Tennessee, against the removal of the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

A Confederate flag is being raised as people surround the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest at a rally in Memphis, Tennessee, against the removal of the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Traditionally, residents of Memphis, Tennessee celebrate June 1st at Robert R. Church Park, named after the city’s first black billionaire.

But this year, residents and city officials said in a park where the body of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who owned and traded slave workers and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, was buried. He plans to celebrate the end of slavery, a mile away. Under a marble foundation since 1905.

Workers hired by Confederate veterans are digging up and removing the copper casket where the bodies of Forrest and his wife Mary Ann are enshrined. Forrest’s body and statue, once towering above a park named after the general, will be moved to the National Southern Museum in Colombia, Tennessee, 200 miles away.

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The excavation can take weeks, according to Lee Miller, a spokesman for a group that represents the direct descendants of Confederate soldiers and promotes a revisionist view of the Civil War.

But even if the process isn’t completed by June 19, according to Michaelin Easter-Thomas of the Memphis City Council, the June 19 celebration will take place in what is now known as the Health Science Park.

“It was like having him dance in our grave, the grave of our ancestors,” she said. “You can go quietly. We will not miss you.”

The excavations involved years of protests at the site, decades of demands for the removal of statues and bodies from the city’s black population, and numerous court battles over what should happen at the burial ground. It happened following.

Since the excavation began, tensions have increased on the ground. The wreckage from the burial ground was thrown into the Black Lives Matter mural painted around the base on which the statue of Forest stood.

On Tuesday, Tami Sawyer, a Shelby County commissioner who led a campaign to remove the statue of a Confederate leader around Memphis, was struck by the son of a Confederate veteran volunteer when he spoke to reporters on the scene.

Volunteers waved the Confederate flag and sang “Dixie” out loud (“I wish I had been in Cotton Country, never forgotten”) Sawyer how her ancestors cotton Explained what you chose.

Sawyer said in a statement that he had been threatened on social media ever since.

“As a civil servant, Commissioner Sawyer does not oppose criticism or hydrangea, but these messages are racially violent and threaten her physical safety,” her office said in a statement. Stated.

Sergeant Memphis police spokesman Luis Brownlee said in an email that the agency was investigating her complaints. He said he had not been arrested.

Miller said green security fences were placed around the excavation site to keep the excavation site safe and “keep the audience away so that no one could get caught and injured.”

He said volunteers began singing as Sawyer held a “press conference” that confused workers.

On December 20, 2017, the statues of Forest and Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park were removed, and the city council decided to sell both parks to the nonprofit Memphis Green Space for $ 1,000 each. ..

The move allowed the city to circumvent the Tennessee Heritage Preservation Act. The Tennessee Heritage Act is a state law that prohibits the removal, relocation, and renaming of monuments on public property, and state authorities previously used the city. Was used to prevent the statue from being removed.

After the city council voted, the crowd cheered and sang songs such as “Hit the Road Jack,” and a crane broke into the park and removed both statues.

Confederate veterans sued the city after the statue was removed and accused officials of violating the graveyard and attempting to circumvent state law.

The organization later settled with the city and agreed to withdraw the proceedings in exchange for possession of the statue and body of Forrest and his wife.

Miller said it would cost about $ 200,000 to dig up the body and move the casket and statue. The group raised funds for the project through donations.

Miller said Forrest’s body would be taken to a “better place”, calling himself a distant cousin of Forrest and a spokesman for his direct descendants.

“It’s sad to have to move the graves of someone, especially veterans and such generals, but it will be better for everyone,” he said.

The debate over what to do with Forest statues has divided the Tennessees for many years.

Republicans have proposed building a statue of Dolly Parton to replace the towering bust of Forest in the Tennessee State Capitol. The petition for replacement has received nearly 26,000 signatures.

In June last year, a black parliamentarian cried tears and anger from the Capitol after a failed proposal to remove the busts of Forrest and other splitting figures. In March, the Tennessee History Commission decided to remove the bust of the Capitol.

In Memphis, the Forrest monument was “one of the constant pains for the majority of African-American communities,” said councilor Jeff Warren. “The majority of our citizens are delighted to see this statue and body leaving.”

Defenders of Forrest’s heritage, slanderers do not recognize his military skills, and towards the end of his life, the Independent Order of Paul Bearers Association, a black male fraternity group. He said in his speech that he called for racial reconciliation.

But William Sturkey, a historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writes about Forest’s lasting dominance over many southern whites.

Starkey said the next burial site was the 1864 massacre at Fort Pillow, where Forrest killed hundreds of Union soldiers in the slave trade, his role in the Ku Klux Klan, or forrest-led troops. Through his role in, he said he doubted whether he would recognize the property that Forest had built. Most of them were black because they tried to surrender.

“I’m not optimistic that this will be a useful and educational exhibition,” he said. “But at least black kids don’t have to see it in Memphis.”

This article was originally New York Times..

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