After months of debate sparked by Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, the Tennessee Historical Commission voted Tuesday to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest—a Confederate general and early KKK leader—from the state capitol building.
The Tennessee Historical Commission voted 25-1 to relocate Forrest’s bust to the Tennessee State Museum, a move supported by Republican Gov. Bill Lee.
Though there have been attempts to remove the statue in the past, the effort gained momentum over the summer in the wake of protests over the summer following George Floyd’s death.
Forrest was the KKK’s first Grand Wizard and is known for leading Confederate troops in the Fort Pillow Massacre, which left 300 Union soldiers dead, 200 of whom were Black.
“Forrest represents pain, suffering and brutal crimes committed against African Americans, and that pain is very real for our fellow Tennesseans as they walk the halls of our statehouse and evaluate how he could be one of just the nine busts elevated to a place of reverence,” Lee said in a video recording before the meeting, according to the Tennessean.
Leaders of the state legislature are pushing back against the statue’s removal, arguing the process didn’t follow proper procedure. Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton asked the state’s attorney general last month to issue an opinion on which commission has the authority to decide the statue’s location.
McNally, a Republican, also argued last year that the statue should remain in the building as long as context is added to it. He called efforts to remove the statue part of a “radical left attack on monuments across the nation.”
“The left-wing activists who are pushing an anti-American, anti-history agenda here in Tennessee and across the nation will not stop with Nathan Bedford Forrest,” he added.
The debate around the Forrest statue began over the summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death and protests across the country calling for the removal of statues commemorating racist historical figures. Taylor Swift, who grew up in Tennessee, released a public statement pressuring lawmakers to remove the statue.
What To Watch For
It’s unclear when the statue will be removed or if the attorney general’s opinion on the matter will delay the process further.