Interesting

Why did Confederate General Forrest leave the KKK?

Why did Confederate General Forrest leave the KKK?



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I've watched a video with a simplified version of General Nathan Bedford Forrest's history. It was in the context of contemporary pressure to remove statues of Confederate leaders.

I did some fact-checking and found that many points were misleading or incorrect, for example:

  1. He started the Ku Klux Klan.
    Actually he was only its first Grand Wizard, it had already existed for two years.
  2. His army had massacred black Union soldiers after the surrender at Fort Pillow. (half truth)
    Edit: Also mentions Southern whites fighting for the Union, not sure if this included northern Union troops. Actually the Union troops at Fort Pillow consisted of black and white soldiers. Accounts from the time state that:

The whitte [sic] men fared but little better.
Achilles V. Clark, survivor of the massacre

  1. The reason he left the KKK was because its members "weren't disciplined enough".
    (To me this sounded to insinuate that he didn't believe they were racist enough, or something like this.)

Number 3 is the main part of my question. I've read from this source that after only a year in the Klan:

After only a year as Grand Wizard, in January 1869, faced with an ungovernable membership employing methods that seemed increasingly counterproductive, Forrest issued KKK General Order Number One: “It is therefore ordered and decreed, that the masks and costumes of this Order be entirely abolished and destroyed.”
Huffington Post article

And that he disbanded it (Ibid.).

In 1868 he denied ever being part of the Klan.
Wikipedia KKK membership

It seems also that he had a change of heart about his views, at least ostensibly. The Huffington Post article includes an excerpt from "Nathan Bedford Forrest: In Search of an Enigma":

on page 464 and 474-475, you can see that Forrest not only publicly disavowed the KKK and worked to terminate it, but in August 1874, Forrest “volunteered to help 'exterminate' those men responsible for the continued violence against the blacks.” After the murder of four blacks by a lynch mob after they were arrested for defending themselves at a BBQ, Forrest wrote to Tennessee Governor Brown, offering “to exterminate the white marauders who disgrace their race by this cowardly murder of Negroes.

So in case anyone lost the original question from reading the context I provided, my question is what is the reason this man left the KKK?


Question:
Why did Nathan Bedford Forrest leave the KKK?

Background

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a wealthy plantation owner prior to the Civil war. A true believer in the South's cause. Given Forrest's wealth and the number of slaves he owned he was exempt from service in the Confederate Army. Still Forrest enlisted as a private on June 14, 1861, six days after Tennessee seceded from the union. Along with Forrest his youngest brother and 15 year old son enlisted with him and served along side him throughout the war. Upon volunteering for service as a private, Forrest outfitted his entire regiment with horses and equipment out of his own pocket.

Forrest had never been a professional soldier prior to the war, and had no formal education. A natural leader he rose through the ranks and became a Brigadier General July 21, 1862 (13 months after enlisting). Nathan Bedford Forrest is widely regarded as one of the finest calvary officers in the war on either side of the conflict. J.E.B Stuart and Nathan Bedford Forrest share this distinction among Southern Calvary Officers and are generally ranked #1 or #2 depending upon your opinion of J.E.B Stuart's actions leading up to the battle of Gettysburg.

General Forrest was famous even in the North and his name featured prominently in Union dispatches by such Union Generals as Grant and Sherman.

Nathan Bedford Forrest
Union General William Tecumseh Sherman called him "that devil Forrest" in wartime communications with Ulysses S. Grant and considered him "the most remarkable man our civil war produced on either side". Grant himself described Forrest as "a brave and intrepid cavalry general"… Forrest is considered one of the Civil War's most brilliant tacticians by the historian Spencer C. Tucker.

Which is why he was named Grand Dragon of the KKK. The organization was secretive, his membership and leadership in that organization was not. Nathan Bedford Forrest's famous name brought the KKK recruits, publicity and notoriety.

Forrest took part in domestic Terrorism after the Civil War in an attempt to both suppress African Americans and dissuade them from voting in the Presidential election of 1868. There was a terror wave leading up to that Presidential election across the south with many thousands of people murdered, and sadly Nathan Bedford as leader of the Tennessee Klan, Forrest was right in the middle of it. Yes according to interviews Forrest gave in 1868 he said he was not affiliated with the terrorist organization while giving figures on it's membership in the tens of thousands. He also said members in the organization had pledged allegiance to the United States and said he was sympathetic with their goals, an important note to make for a former insurrectionist who himself had pledged allegiance to the Union as terms of his parole following the civil war. Also remember, his interview was given after the Terror wave has hit, and interested readers across the nation were considering the response for such action. After thousands had been murdered. Forrest was denying participation in what he would latter admit occurred under his leadership.

In Jan of 1869 in a different interview Forrest said he had resigned as Grand Dragon of the KKK after serving in that role for 1 year and had disbanded the organization. Resigned from membership and leadership in the organization because of "discipline" problems.

This was not the first time Nathan Bedford Forrest used the "discipline" problems excuse to escape the hangman's noose. It is not the first time his brutal tactics, or at least his tolerance of brutal tactics on defenseless people backfired on his cause. April 12, 1864, in Henning, Tennessee at the Battle of Fort Pillow about 40 miles north of Memphis. Troops under Nathan Bedford Forrest fell upon a union fortress named Fort Pillow which was about half colored and half white troops. After the Union troops surrendered Nathan Bedford Forrest's troops set about slaughtering the defenseless soldiers including women and children.

The New York Times reported on April 24:
The blacks and their officers were shot down, bayoneted and put to the sword in cold blood… Out of four hundred negro soldiers only about twenty survive! At least three hundred of them were destroyed after the surrender! This is the statement of the rebel General Chalmers himself to our informant.

Battle of Fort Pillow
The rebels commenced an indiscriminate slaughter, sparing neither age nor sex, white nor black soldier nor civilian. The officers and men seemed to vie with each other in the devilish work. Men, women and their children, wherever found, were deliberately shot down, beaten and hacked with sabres. Some of the children, not more than ten years old, were forced to stand up and face their murderers while being shot. The sick and wounded were butchered without mercy, the rebels even entering the hospital buildings and dragging them out to be shot, or killing them as they lay there unable to offer the least resistance.

Forrest would report the incident in his dispatches.

The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.

I think this blurb sums up Fort Pillow nicely

Nathan Bedford Forrest
The consensus of recent historians is that Forrest did not order the massacre; after thorough investigation he was not charged with a crime nor dereliction of duty. It was, however, the South's publicly stated position that slaves firing on whites would be killed on the spot, along with Southern whites that fought for the Union, whom the Confederacy considered traitors. According to this analysis, Forrest's troops were carrying out Confederate policy, and were simply obeying orders. By his inaction Forrest showed that he felt no compunction to stop the slaughter, and his repeated later denials that he knew a massacre was taking place, or even that a massacre had occurred at all, are not credible. Consequently, despite this isolated incident in his otherwise distinguished career as a general, his role in it was a stigmatizing one for him the rest of his life, both professionally and personally,

  • Note: Just following orders was a top excuse given at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials after WWII. Many of the convicted and executed Nazi war criminals would attempt to use that defense/explaination.*

The aftermath of Fort Pillow were disastrous for the Confederacy. Prisoner exchanges ceased a few months latter, with Pillow being a root cause. Also Union troops were disinclined to surrender after this massacre even when outnumbered or surrounded. Popularity in the war grew significantly in the North as a result too. Overall, the brutal tactics backfired on General Forrest, and the Confederacy.

In 1868 4 years after Fort Pillow, history would repeat itself. In the Presidential Elections of 1868 thousands of African Americans were murdered across the south. Nathan Bedford Forrest by his own accounts was the public vocal leader of one of the domestic terrorist organization which conducted these atrocities. Yet, Union General Ulyses S Grant still won the election in a landslide, along with majorities in both the Congress and Senate. Grant literally ran his campaign for president in opposition to the Klan's wave of terror. Grant's campaign slogan in 1868 was "Let us have peace".

Grant Responds to the racial hit squads being conducted in the South with

  • The Fourteenth Amendment (July 9, 1868) Grants Citizenship, due process, and equal protections.
  • The Fifteenth Amendment (February 3, 1870), Protects the right to vote, and grants the federal government the authority to do so.
  • Enforcement Acts 3 acts from 1870-1871 which resulted in thousands of arrests and prosecutions of southerners. The third enforcement act is also known as the KKK act as it gave the Federal government special privileges tailored for going after the Klan.
    -made state officials liable in federal court for depriving anyone of their civil rights
    • made a number of the KKK's intimidation tactics into federal offenses
    • authorized the president to call out the militia to suppress conspiracies against the operation of the federal government
    • prohibited those suspected of complicity to serve on juries related to the Klan's activities.
    • authorized the president to suspend habeas corpus
    • It was passed at the request of President Ulysses S. Grant.

Answer

I would argue that it's one thing to be a famous public leader of a domestic terrorist organization in 1867 and it's an entirely different thing to be such in 1868 after Grant was elected President, and the nation had witnessed thousands of murders during the Presidential Election.

We know Nathan Bedford Forrest was a domestic Terrorist who brutally suppressed African Americans after the war and prior to the 1868 election. We know he was both active in the Klan, and lied about both his leadership and membership in the organization. We know he lied under oath, before Congress.

Nathan Bedford Forrest
Forrest testified before the Congressional investigation on Klan activities on June 27, 1871. He denied membership, but his individual role in the KKK was beyond the scope of the investigating committee, which wrote, "our design is not to connect General Forrest with this order, (the reader may form his own conclusion upon this question… "[156] The committee also noted, "The natural tendency of all such organizations is to violence and crime; hence it was that General Forrest and other men of influence in the state, by the exercise of their moral power, induced them to disband".

We know the Klan's brutal activities were counter productive and lead to two Constitutional Amendments and 3 Federal laws to capture and punish Klan members. ( like the RICO act only in 1868). These laws resulted in thousands of arrests.

And we have Nathan Bedford Forrest the Leader of the Klan saying after his tactics failed, that he had resigned and disbanded the organization and washed his hands of it. It wasn't me, it wasn't me!! All this on the eve of the Feds getting tough on these terrorist organizations after thousands had been murdered at their hands. We know the Federal Government arrested thousands of suspected Klansmen, shortly after Nathan Bedford Forrest, their public face proclaims himself a victim of poor discipline, and dissolved the criminal organization with a bullseye on it's back.

I would thus argue that Forrest never resigned from his leadership of the Klan. We only have Forrest's own statements to suggest he had resigned and Forrest lied continuously about his more controversial conduct. I would observe, Forrest is not a creditable source especially when disavowing his responsibilities for actions where the consequences would be severe.

History tells us the Klan went from overt to covert after the 1868 Election, with good reason, due to their conduct leading up to the 1868 election. History also informs us Nathan Bedford Forrest's son would emerge some years later as the Grand Dragon of the KKK, suggesting the Forrest family had continuous sympathies and high connections with the organization.

Forrest's declaration that he was the Grand Dragon and had disbanded the organization is more appropriately attributed as an attempt to get himself and his state out of the Federal's cross hairs. We know Forrest himself was never prosecuted for his crimes, and we know the KKK in Tennessee continued on for more than 100 more years.

from zebrafish's original question
His army had massacred black Union soldiers after the surrender at Fort Pillow. (half truth)

Half Truth??!

Battle of Fort Pillow
Historians agree that defenders' casualties varied considerably according to race. Only 58 (around 20%) black soldiers were marched away as prisoners, whereas 168 (about 60%) of the white soldiers were taken prisoner. Not all of the prisoners who were shot were black; Major Bradford was apparently among those shot after he surrendered.[39] Confederate anger at the thought of black men fighting them and their initial reluctance to surrender (many of the black troops believed they would be killed if they surrendered in Union uniform) resulted in a tragedy.

In addition to the soldiers Forrest's troops used the women and children as shields during the battle and slaughtered them too after the surrender. It was one of the worst atrocities against surrendered troops in the US civil war and was investigated by both the Union army (General Sherman) and Congress. While Forrest was not charged for his command of this atrocity the event followed him for the rest of his life both personally and professionally; and was among the first things mentioned in his obituary decades after the event.

Sources:


Forrest, Nathan Bedford

Nathaniel Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821-October 29, 1877) was a Confederate army general and an instrumental figure in the founding and growth of the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest was perhaps the American Civil War’s most highly regarded cavalry and partisan ranger (guerrilla leader). Forrest is regarded by many military historians as the war’s most innovative and successful general. His tactics of mobile warfare are still studied by modern soldiers. Though born in Chapel Hill, Tenn., Forrest County bears his name to this day.

After the war, Forrest settled in Memphis, Tennessee, building a house on a bank of the Mississippi River. With slavery abolished, the former slave trader suffered a major financial setback. He was eventually employed by the Selma-based Marion & Memphis Railroad and became the company president. He was not as successful in the railroad industry as in war, and under his direction the company went bankrupt.

It was during this time that he became the nexus of the nascent Ku Klux Klan movement. Upon learning of the Klan and its purposes of disenfranchising blacks and reestablishing white conservative rule, Forrest remarked, “That’s a good thing that’s a damn good thing. We can use that to keep the niggers in their place.” Forrest was later acclaimed at a Nashville, Tennessee, KKK convention (1867) as the first Grand Wizard, or leader-in-chief of that organization. In an 1868 newspaper interview, Forrest boasted that the Klan was a nationwide organization of 550,000 men, and that although he himself was not a member, he was “in sympathy” and would “cooperate” with them, and could himself muster 40,000 Klansmen with only five days’ notice. He stated that the Klan did not see blacks as its enemy so much as “carpetbaggers” (northerners who moved to the South after the war ended) and “scalawags” (white Republican southerners). However, violence against blacks by the organization was pervasive.

Because of Forrest’s prominence, the organization grew rapidly under his leadership. In addition to aiding Confederate widows and orphans of the war, many members of the new group began to use force to oppose the extension of voting rights to blacks and to resist Reconstruction era measures for ending segregation. In 1869, Forrest, disagreeing with its increasingly violent tactics, ordered the Klan to disband, stating that it was “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace.” Many of its groups in other parts of the country ignored the order and continued to function. Subsequently, Forrest distanced himself from the KKK.

Nearly ruined as the result of the failure of the Marion & Memphis Railroad in the early 1870s, Forrest spent his final days running a prison work farm on President’s Island in the Mississippi River, his health in steady decline. He and his wife lived in a log cabin they had salvaged from his plantation.

On July 5, 1875, Forrest became the first white man to speak to Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, a civil rights group whose members were former slaves and a precursor to the NAACP. Although his speech was short, he expressed the opinion that blacks had the right to vote for any candidates they wanted and that the role of blacks should be elevated. He ended the speech by kissing the cheek of one of the daughters of one of the Pole-Bearer members.

Forrest died in October 1877, reportedly from complications of diabetes, in Memphis and was buried at Elmwood Cemetery. In 1904 his remains were disinterred and moved to Forrest Park, a Memphis city park.

Controversy still surrounds his actions at Fort Pillow, and his reputation has been marred by his involvement in the first incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan. His remarkably changed views on race in his latter years were quickly forgotten as Forrest became an icon for the Klan and other Southerners. Regardless, N.B. Forrest will always be regarded as a military leader of great native ability, and one who advanced the principles of wartime cavalry deployment and mobile strike capability that has remained in present warfare philosophy.

In recent years efforts have been made by some local black leaders to remove or eliminate some of Forrest’s monuments, usually without success. In 2005, Shelby County Commissioner Walter Bailey started an effort to move the statue over Forrest’s grave and rename Forrest Park. Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton, who is black, blocked the move. Similar efforts to remove a bust of Forrest in the Tennessee House of Representatives chamber have likewise been mounted.

Forrest’s great-grandson, Nathan Bedford Forrest III, also pursued a military career, eventually attaining the rank of brigadier general in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. N.B. Forrest III was killed in action in 1943 while participating in an airborne bombing raid over Germany.

Catton. Bruce (1971). The Civil War. American Heritage Press, New York. Library of Congress Number: 77-119671.

Hurst, Jack. Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography, 1993.

Ward, Andrew. River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War. Viking Penguin: 2005.

Wills, Brian Steel (1992). A Fight from the Start: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-092445-4.


Early life

Forrest was born into a poor family and spent his formative years in rural Tennessee and Mississippi. His hardscrabble background contributed to the development of an aggressive and sometimes violent disposition. With the untimely death of his father, Forrest became his family’s sole provider while still a teenager. Despite his nearly nonexistent formal education, he was able to secure a measure of financial stability for his family, and, when his mother remarried, he embarked on his own ventures. In 1845 Forrest married Mary Ann Montgomery. The two would have two children, only one of whom would survive to adulthood. Forrest eventually became a millionaire, having made a fortune trading livestock, brokering real estate, planting cotton, and especially selling slaves. By the outbreak of the Civil War, he was one of the richest men in Tennessee, if not all of the South.


The Massacre at Fort Pillow

Forrest is also associated with one of the more controversial episodes of the Civil War. On April 12, 1864, Confederate forces had surrounded Fort Pillow, a union garrison near the Mississippi River, occupied by nearly 300 Black troops, most newly freed enslaved people, and nearly the same number of white soldiers. After several hours of continuous rifle and artillery fire by Confederate forces, Forrest sent a note to the Union commander demanding unconditional surrender. The commander asked for an hour to consider the offer. Forrest offered less time and then, fearing the arrival of Union reinforcements, launched a furious assault on the fort.

Many Union and some Confederate sources claimed that Confederate forces entering the fort fired on Union troops as they surrendered. Witnesses reported the rebels shouted “No quarter!” as they shot and bayoneted the Union forces, specifically targeting the Black troops as they ran. The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War (composed primarily of Radical Republicans) concluded that Confederates killed most of the Union soldiers after they had surrendered. In contrast, many of Forrest’s men claimed that Union soldiers kept their weapons and fired back at the Confederates as they fled. Historians agree a massacre did occur but differ in their conclusions over whether the killing was premeditated or occurred in the heat of battle.

As the war moved on through 1864 and into 1865, Forrest experienced some victories and defeats, but neither strong enough to turn the tide of war toward the South or to destroy his army completely. In 1865, Forrest and his men were struggling just to avoid capture. Upon hearing of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Forrest chose to surrender his forces in May 1865.


Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Nathan Bedford Forrest is always a popular subject in Confederate heritage, but that’s never been more true than it is today. He’s frequently featured in the secular trinity of Confederate heroes, alongside Lee and Jackson. And like those two – and only those two – Forrest has achieved the modern apotheosis of Confederate fame, having his own page of t-shirts at Dixie Outfitters.

But Forrest’s defenders often hold the line at one claim, that he was a prominent figure in the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan. Even as they struggle to rationalize the Klan of that period as a necessary counter against the supposed excesses of the Union League and other northern influences, they usually deny any involvement of Forrest in the Klan’s organizing or activities, except for the odd claim that Forrest, despite having no authority or connection to the group, successfully ordered them to stand down in 1869.

So did Forrest really join the Ku Klux Klan? Yes, he did. Was he really Grand Wizard of the group? Yes, he was. How do we know this? Because the old klansmen who were there tell us so.

Forrest’s order to disband the group is something that Forrest’s supporters generally agree upon — they’ll credit him with stopping the Klan’s violence, though never supporting it, or being involved with it — but that order makes little sense when coupled with the assertion that the former general had no other connection to the group. Why would such an order come from Forrest, exactly? Sure, he was a well-known and popular figure after the war, but there were other former Confederate leaders who ranked him, both in actual seniority and in the public’s mind. Why not Robert E. Lee, or Jefferson Davis? (Or Johnston, or. . . ?) Are we to supposed to assume these men would have no influence, no moral authority with the klansmen? No, Forrest’s order — and the assertion that it was accepted and followed — only makes sense if those men understood Forrest to have been a leader within the organization, with the authority to issue such a directive.

Forrest’s defenders often point to his testimony before a congressional investigation in June 1871, in which he denied personal involvement with the Klan, but seemed to nonetheless know quite a bit about it generally. That he denied involvement in the group is taken at face value, ignoring the fact that we can all name a long list of folks who’ve routinely lied to Congress about issues serious and silly, when they’re liable to incriminate themselves. Forrest’s fans will sometimes say he was “acquitted” by the investigation, but that’s inaccurate, because he was never tried as a criminal matter. Moreover, the committee was not charged with investigating Forrest’s personal involvement in their first place, and acknowledged the difficulty they had in getting anyone to testify about the group at all, given the secret nature of the organization and the retribution likely waiting for any member who spoke about it publicly.[1]

To the Klan and its supporters, though, Forrest’s denials under oath were simply part of his role:

When before the Ku Klux Committee of Congress, in 1871, the General would make only general statements and he evaded some of the interrogatories. To the committee he appeared to be wonderfully familiar with the principles of the order, but very ignorant as to details. The average member of Congress, ignorant of Southern conditions, did not understand that the members of the order considered themselves bound by the supreme oath of the Klan and that other oaths, if in conflict with it, were not binding. That is, the ex-Confederates under the command of Forrest, Grand Wizard of the Invisible Empire, were obeying the first law of nature and were bound to reveal nothing to injure the cause, just as when Confederates under Forrest, Lieutenant-General of the Confederate Army, they were bound not to reveal military information to the hostile forces. The government, in their view, had not only failed to protect them, but was being used to oppress them. Consequently they were disregarding its claim to obedience.[2]

In short, Forrest played them.

Forrest’s supporters will also cite a short address he gave in 1875 to a black Memphis civic group, the Pole Bearers’ Association, as evidence that he bore no ill will toward African Americans in general. Referring to hopes for a “reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states,” Forrest urged his audience to exercise their right of suffrage, and closed with the lines,

I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief.

To be sure, these are not the words one would expect to hear from a leader of the Klan. But neither are they the words one would expect from a man who, not a great many years before, had made a sizable fortune as a slave trader.


Engraving after a sketch by Alfred R. Waud in Harper’s Weekly, depicting some of the violence during rioting in Memphis in early May 1866. At the end of three days of violence, forty-eight people were dead — forty-six black, and two white. (One of the latter was killed by the accidental discharge of his own weapon.) Via Tennessee State Library and Archives.

More important, much had changed in the decade between 1866, when Forrest reportedly joined the Klan, and 1875, when Forrest addressed the Pole Bearers. Memphis had been the scene of violent recriminations against both newly-freed African Americans and military and civilian personnel involved in Reconstruction. By the mid-1970s, though, much had changed. The Democrats had won control of the state’s General Assembly in 1869, and withdrew state funding from public schools established by the previous, Republican assembly for both poor white and black students. Tennesseee’s Reconstruction governor William G. Brownlow, the Klan’s primary enemy in the state government, had resigned that same year to accept a seat in the U.S. Senate. A new state constitution had been adopted in 1870 that gave the right to vote to African Americans, but made suffrage contingent upon payment of a poll tax, a tactic that effectively disenfranchised most African Americans for decades to come.[3] In short, by 1875 Tennessee was well on its way to re-establishing the antebellum social and racial order, and groups like the Pole Bearers posed little real challenge to the re-assertion of white power in the state. Men like Forrest could afford to be magnanimous with their words.

But by 1875, two years before his death, Forrest was a different man, as well. The Pole Bearers’ speech had attracted attention, after all, specifically because it was such an unusual counterpoint to his well-established reputation. It was viewed at the time as a strange event. The Newport, Connecticut Daily News remarked that “lest the colored people forget who Forrest was, the Fates so ordered things that Gen. [Gideon Johnston] Pillow addressed them on the same occasion. There can be nothing in a name, if Forrest accompanied by a Pillow would have been too much for the self-possession of any colored person.” The Chicago Inter-Ocean observed that the event marked a recognition of the rights of African Americans, “even by such bitter opponents of equality and Forrest and Pillow.” The New Orleans Times noted that “of the Southern leaders in the late war, none have been considerated [sic.] as dangerous an enemy as the famous trooper Forrest.”[4] But if Forrest’s appearance before the Pole Bearers was seen as progress and reconciliation by some, others wanted no part of it. Describing the event as “the recent disgusting exhibition of himself at the negro [sic.] jamboree,” the Macon Weekly Telegraph quoted the Charlotte, North Carolina Observer as saying that

we have infinitely more respect for [James] Longstreet, who fraternizes with negro men on public occasions, with the pay for the treason to his race in his pocket, than with Forrest and Pillow, who equalize with the negro women, with only ‘futures’ in payment.[5]

The Nathan Bedford Forrest of 1875 was not the Nathan Bedford Forrest of 1866.

More broadly, this obstinate denial about Forrest’s involvement with the Klan runs counter to generations of Southerners’ understanding about Forrest it is revisionist white-washing at its most blatant, an open attempt to make the old slave trader conform to a modern, politically-correct standards of racial tolerance. But real Confederates, and real klansmen, had no doubt whatsoever that Forrest was one of them. One of the first attempts at a narrative history of the Reconstruction-era Klan, written by Laura Martin Rose of West Point, Mississippi, former president and historian of the Mississippi UDC, was explicit about Forrests’ involvement, giving him the title of “Grand Wizard of the Invisible Empire.” Rose was a native of Giles County, Tennessee, the birthplace of the Klan.[6] Rose’s booklet, sold to raise funds for a monument to Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir, was both excerpted and advertised for sale (above right) in the Confederate Veteran magazine, a journal written by and for former Confederate soldiers and their families. Confederate Veteran was one of the major voices at the time projecting an explicitly Southern view of the conflict, its causes and consequences.[7] Rose’ account not only made clear Forrest’s role in the Klan, but defended that organization’s reputation on the basis of his involvement, and credits to him what she sees as the group’s success:

His high standing as a Confederate officer, his devotion to his country, his noble principles and sacred honor pledged to protect the South, puts at naught forever any false statements as to the purposes of the Klan, and challenges any stigma or misrepresentations as to the character of its members, for they were in the main Confederate soldiers, and Forrest was its great leader, and under his leadership and with the loyalty of the members, the Mission of the Ku Klux Klan, or Invisible Empire, was successfully accomplished.[8]

Rose’s source on Forrest’s involvement with the Klan is unimpeachable: former Major James R. Crowe (right), one of the original six founders of the Klan at Pulaski, Tennessee. In her booklet, she reprints a letter Crowe wrote her, describing the Klan’s desire to elevate Forrest to the senior leadership:

The younger generation will never fully realize the risk we ran, and the sacrifices we made to free our beloved Southland from the hated rule of the “Carpetbagger,” the worse negro [sic.] and the home Yankee. Thank God, our work was rewarded by complete success. After the order grew to large numbers, we found it was necessary to have someone of large experience to command. We chose General N. B. Forrest, who had joined our number. He was made a member and took the oath in the Room No. 10 of the Maxwell House at Nashville, Tennessee, in the fall of 1866, nearly a year after we organized at Pulaski. The oath was administered to him by Captain John W. Morton, afterwards Secretary of State, Nashville, Tennessee.[9]

Rose concludes, in laying out the great lessons taught by the Klan:

First, the inevitability of Anglo-Saxon Supremacy when harassed by bands of outlaws, thugs, carpet-baggers, and guerillas, turned loose on the South and upheld by political machinery, during the Reconstruction period, the sturdy white men of the South, against all odds, maintained white supremacy and secured Caucasian civilization, when its very foundations were threatened within and without. Second, a new revelation of the greatness and genius of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the “Wizard of the Saddle,” the great Confederate cavalry leader. As Grand Wizard of the Invisible Empire, to his splendid leadership was due, more than to any other.[10]

Rose’s volume, with her claim about Forrest, was subsequently endorsed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who pledged “to ‘assist in every way possible to promote its circulation and to cooperate in getting this work in the schools and public libraries’ that the origin and objects of that great order may be more generally known and understood.”[11]

Crowe’s first-hand account of the decision to select Forrest for leadership in the group is compelling, but there’s more. John Watson Morton (1848-1920, right), Forrest’s former artillery commander, remained a friends with Forrest until the latter’s death. He went on to serve as the Tennessee Secretary of State. The Sons of Confederate Veterans dedicated a monument at Prker’s Crossroads to Morton and his battery in 2007. Morton’s 1909 autobiographical account, The Artillery of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry: The Wizard of the Saddle, focuses on the war years, but includes a detailed essay on the Ku Klux Klan written by Thomas Dixon, Jr. The account is an expanded version of a piece Dixon published a few years previously in the September 1905 issue of The Metropolitan Magazine in a story on the fawning story on the group, written by Thomas Dixon, Jr., the same year as he published the novel, The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan, which would in turn become the basis for Griffith’s infamous screen spectacular, Birth of a Nation. Forrest himself gets a passing mention in The Clansman, referred to as “a great Scotch-Irish leader of the South from Memphis.”[12] Few readers could be in doubt, then, as to whom Dixon refers to in his historical precis where he says “society was fused in the white heat of one sublime thought and beat with the pulse of the single will of the Grand Wizard of the Klan at Memphis.”[13]

Getting back to Dixon’s non-fiction, Dixon’s Metropolitan Magazine article is predictably rancid in its inflammatory portrayal of African Americans (“the lowest type of negro, maddened by these wild doctrines, began to grip the throat of the white girl with his black claws. . . “), but it’s also unequivocal on Forrest’s leadership in the Klan. It gives a detailed and specific account of Forrest seeking out Morton, his old comrade, and pressing him to be accepted into the group. Morton was, according to his own autobiography, Grand Cyclops of the Nashville Den of the Klan.[14] Dixon’s account is compelling, in part, because it includes details that must have come from Morton himself, that describe exchanges between the two men that were not witnessed by anyone else, and could only have been related by Morton.


Maxwell House in Nashville, Tennessee, c. 1900. Forrest was sworn into the Ku Klux Klan here in the fall of 1866, and the first national meeting of the group was reportedly held here the following spring. The structure was destroyed in a fire on Christmas night, 1961. Image via Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Morton himself must have been pleased with Dixon’s account in the Metropolitan Magazine, because he used an expanded, more detailed version of it in his own autobiography. It includes much detail, and is worth quoting in full:

One of the most interesting figures in the inner history of the clan is that of Hon. John W. Morton, formerly Secretary of the State of Tennessee, who was General Forrest’s chief of artillery. Pale and boyish in appearance, he was, in fact, but a boy, yet he won the utmost confidence of the General, who relied on him as Stuart did on Pelham and Lee on Jackson. Forrest called him ‘the little bit of a kid with a great big backbone.’ When the rumors of the Kuklux [sic.] Klan first spread over Tennessee, General Forrest was quick to see its possibilities. He went immediately to Nashville to find his young chief of artillery.

“Captain Morton then had an office diagonally across from the Maxwell House. Looking from his window one day, he saw General Forrest walking impatiently around Calhoun Corner, as it was then called. Hastening down the steps to greet his former chieftain, he encountered a little negro [sic.] boy, who inquired where he could find Captain Morton. He said: ‘There’s a man over yonder on de corner and he wants to see him, and he looks like he wants to see him mighty bad.’ Captain Morton hurried across the street, and, after salutation, the General said: ‘John, I hear this Kuklux Klan is organized in Nashville, and I know you are in it. I want to join.’ The young man avoided the issue and took his Commander for a ride. General Forrest persisted in his questions about the Klan and Morton kept smiling and changing the subject. On reaching a dense woods in a secluded valley outside the city, Morton suddenly turned on his former leader and said: ‘General, do you say you want to join the Kuklux?’

General Forrest was somewhat vexed and swore a little: ‘Didn’t I tell you that’s what I came up here for?’

Smiling at the idea of giving orders to his erstwhile commander, Captain Morton said: ‘Well, get out of the buggy.’ General Forrest stepped out of the buggy, and next received the order: ‘Hold up your right hand.’

General Forrest did as he was ordered, and Captain Morton solemnly administered the preliminary oath of the order.

As he finished taking the oath General Forrest said: ‘John, that’s the worst swearing that I ever did.’

‘That’s all I can give you now. Go to Room 10 at the Maxwell House to-night and you can get all you want. Now you know how to get in,’ said Captain Morton.

After administering the oath to his chieftain, Captain Morton drove him to call on a young lady, and after a short visit in the parlor, Miss H. saw them out to the door. General Forrest led her to the end of the porch, and Captain Morton overheard him saying: ‘Miss Annie, if you can get John Morton, you take him. I know him. He’ll take care of you.’

That night the General was made a full-fledged clansman, and was soon elected Grand Wizard of the Invisible Empire. . . .[15]

None of this will sway the thinking of those who have chosen to believe Forrest had no involvement with the Klan. But for those with an open mind, accounts like Crowe’s and Morton’s are impossible to dismiss. Folks can, and will, believe whatever they want to, but for those who really want to know, the evidence has been there all along.

[1] Report of the Joint Select Committee Appointed to Inquire Into the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1872), 14.

[2] J. C. Lester and D. L .Wilson, Ku Klux Klan: Its Origin, Growth and Disbandment (New York: Neale Publishing, 1905), 27-28.

[3] Antoinette G. van Zelm, “Hope Within a Wilderness of Suffering: The Transition from Slavery to Freedom During the Civil War and Reconstruction in Tennessee.” Tennessee State Museum, http://www.tn4me.org/pdf/TransitionfromSlaverytoFreedom.pdf. Retrieved December 10, 2011.

[4] Newport Daily News, 13 July 1875, 2 Chicago Inter-Ocean, 14 July 1875, 4 New Orleans Times, 7 July 1875, 4.

[5] Macon Weekly Telegraph, 20 July 1875, 4.

[6] “Mississippi Division, U.D.C.,” Confederate Veteran magazine, July 1909, 352.

[7] Laura Martin (Mrs. S. E. F.) Rose, “The Ku-Klux Klan and ‘The Birth of a Nation,” Confederate Veteran magazine, April 1916, 157-59.

[8] Laura Martin (Mrs. S. E. F.) Rose, The Ku Klux Klan: or Invisible Empire (New Orleans: L. Graham Co., 1914), 78-79.

[9] Rose, Invisible Empire, 21-22.

[10] Rose, Invisible Empire, 51-52.

[11] “Activities in the Association,” Confederate Veteran magazine, October 1914, 445. The magazine frequently mentioned individuals’ involvement with the Reconstruction-era Klan, either explicitly or using euphemism (e.g., “he was familiar with the organization of the Ku Klux Klan in Giles County”) these examples are never depicted as a negative thing rather they’re something to be applauded. As examples, see “Carson T. Orr,” Confederate Veteran magazine, December 1916, 529 “William Easley Loggins,” Confederate Veteran magazine, July 1916, 321 “John Booker Kennedy,” Confederate Veteran magazine, May 1913, 240 “Col. Asa E. Morgan,” Confederate Veteran magazine, February 1910, 89.

[12] Thomas Dixon, Jr. The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1905), 296.

[14] John Watson Morton, The Artillery of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry: The Wizard of the Saddle (Nashville: Publishing House of the M. E. Church, South, 1909), 338.


CONCLUSION

The Nathan Bedford Forrest mascot during one of its last appearances, on-field at an MTSU football game ceremony.

The spontaneous creation of MTSU’s Nathan Bedford Forrest iconography reveals just how malleable symbols can be, including those of sporting mascots. The Blue Raiders mascot had nothing to do with Nathan Bedford Forrest in 1933 it has nothing to do with Forrest now. But for about 25 years in-between, one MTSU President molded MTSU into a haven for Confederate mythology. Since the late-1980s (at least), a small-but-vocal cadre makes themselves heard whenever MTSU’s Forrest “traditions” are threatened, most often using phrases such as heritage

But, as seen here, MTSU’s connections to Forrest are tenuous at best and bear no validity. If the connection to Forrest is valid, then why doesn’t MTSU mention Forrest a single time in official histories? Why did MTSU quickly sever ties with Confederate symbolism during the late-1960s? Why does the most recent published history of MTSU refer to the mid-century attachment to Forrest as a “passing fad”?

Almost entirely because of student protest and public outcry, MTSU Presidents consistently re-evaluate the appropriateness of Forrest connections around campus. More often than not since 1970, they conclude that Forrest is bad for business and that it projects an image of white supremacy (and they are correct in that conclusion). Further, student government has proven to be an utter failure at least twice now in successfully removing a Confederate tradition foisted upon them by a President Smith seventy years ago. It is now up to President McPhee to tacitly accept a false tradition foisted upon us by Smith or to be an agent of positive change like President Scarlett was in the 1970s.

Forrest Hall as it appears on campus today

As I professed at the beginning of this post, I admit that I cannot separate myself from this story. I am truly ashamed to work at a place where I can see “Forrest” out of my office window. I’m not the only one, as Phil Oliver (Philosophy professor) publicly stated: “I’m embarrassed every time I teach there.”

When MTSU built its ROTC building in 1954, President Smith named it Forrest Hall in honor of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s reputation as an “intrepid Confederate cavalry leader who won fame with his brilliant raids.”[17] Maybe that was Forrest’s reputation in 1954, but in 2015 Forrest’s reputation is one of hate, racism, and violence. We do not want or need that at MTSU. I urge students, staff, faculty, and anyone who cares about MTSU to finally rid the university of this last blatant symbol of the Confederacy on campus.

I think a lot of the stuff—it’s history. I mean these things are factual, but they belong in a history book, and they belong in a museum. They don’t belong in public—especially on buildings. They don’t belong in places like that. Put them in places where they ought to be at.–Sylvester Brooks

Note: I would like to thank the staff of the Albert Gore Research Center at MTSU for their generous assistance in researching this article.

Josh Howard is a PhD Candidate in the Public History Program at Middle Tennessee State University. His research interests include sports history, Appalachia, and public history. His ongoing dissertation research explores the use of informal data collection techniques in museum visitor studies. Most recently, he completed a web exhibit and archive based on the Wendell Smith Papers for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He is also the social media editor for this blog. Get in touch with Josh at [email protected] or on Twitter via @jhowardhistory.

References (All Available at the Albert Gore Research Center)

[1] Middle Tennessee State College Dedication, 25 Mar. 1958.

[2] “The Mid-Stater Alumni Bulletin,” MTS College, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1960.

[3] Lisa Pruitt, Holly Barnett, and Nancy Morgan, editors, Middle Tennessee State University (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2001), 68.

[4] “The Mid-Stater Alumni Bulletin,” MTSU, Fall 1984, 9.

[5] “The Mid-Stater Alumni Bulletin,” MTS College, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1960.

[6] “Everything but Confederate Money,” 1968, Albert Gore Research Center.

[7] The Mid-Stater Alumni Bulletin, MTS College, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 1960.

[8] Matt Bolch, “Raider name evolved, but not without controversy,” Sidelines, undated [1968].

[10] Brooks interview. Transcript, Sylvester Brooks Oral History Interview, 30 Sep. 2000, by Erin Toomey, 26, Albert Gore Research Center.

[12] “The Mid-Stater Alumni Bulletin,” Fall 1984, 9.

[13] MTSU Diamond Anniversary, 7 Sep. 1976.

[14] “The Mid-Stater Alumni Bulletin,” Fall 1976, 17.

[15] Erin Edgemon, “Scarlett put MTSU on path toward change,” DNJ, 1 Jun. 2004.

[16] Gwynn Thayer, Gordon Belt, Taffey Hall, and Nancy Morgan, “MTSU Confederate Symbolism Documentation Project,” Appendix A, IMG_0695.

[17] Middle Tennessee State College Dedication, 25 Mar. 1958, Pittard Collection, Albert Gore Research Center.


Alabama lawmaker who celebrated KKK leader resigns from church

An Alabama state lawmaker who delivered an invocation at a birthday celebration for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general who was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has resigned from the church where is a pastor, officials said Thursday.

Rep. Will Dismukes, of Prattville, stepped down from Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, where he was a bivocational pastor, according to Mel Johnson, lead mission strategist for the church’s association.

Dismukes said Thursday on Facebook that he resigned “not at the request of the church but by choice” because he did not want to see Pleasant Hill voted out of fellowship, NBC affiliate WSFA reported. The post did not appear on Dismukes’ page Thursday night.

Dismukes did not respond to requests for comment.

Dismukes has faced withering criticism over his appearance at the annual event Saturday at “Fort Dixie,” the private home of a Selma woman, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Had a great time at Fort Dixie speaking and giving the invocation for Nathan Bedford Forrest annual birthday celebration,” he wrote in a Facebook post that was later removed, according to WFSA. “Always a great time and some sure enough good eating!!"

Dismukes’ appearance occurred the day before the body of civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis was carried over Selma’s Edmund Pettis Bridge, where he was nearly killed 55 years ago during a march for voting rights.

On Monday, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan called Dismukes’ actions “deeply offensive.”

“It is one thing to honor one’s Southern heritage, however, it is completely another issue to specifically commemorate the leader of an organization with an indisputable history of unconscionable actions and atrocities toward African-Americans,” he said in a statement.

“The Alabama of today was on full, honorable display as we paid humble tribute this weekend to the life of Congressman John Lewis,” Lathan added. “That is the Alabama that we are proud of – showing the nation and world that we are one in the common goals of equality for all of our citizens.”

In an interview with WFSA Monday, Dismukes blamed the backlash on “anti-Southern sentiment.”

“It wasn’t some kind of shot at the passing of Representative John Lewis,” Dismukes said. “I mean that didn’t even really go through my mind, I literally was really just reflecting on a previous day’s events and it was taken in a completely different way that I didn’t exactly see coming and I take responsibility for that.”

He told the station that he has no plans to resign from the state Legislature.


Deleted Comments: Democrats Did The KKK, So Wonkette's The REAL Racist

We sure did get a Passel o' Stupid in reply to our piece suggesting that Memphis should get rid of its big Nathan Bedford Forrest statue (the public one, not the crazy-ass Nashville abomination above, which is on private land), seeing as how the guy was a vicious racist and war criminal. Except really, we mostly just got the same stupid comment, repeated with endless variations, and it looked a little something like these examples from "Angyl Ricardi," who knows the real source of racism:

    I just read the article quickly . did I miss the word DEMOCRAT by the name Nathan Bedford Forrest? maybe it was after the words KKK founder? Hmm, I wonder why they left out that he was a DEMOCRAT, and that the confederate flag is the flag of the democrat party? I personally don't believe every person that flies that flag is a racist - some honor other history of it, but it was the democrat party that flew that flag at every one of THIER KKK meetings, so why not mention that with every article on this subject?

And that is all the history anyone needs to know, of course, because absolutely nothing changed in American politics after 1964.

There were some variations on the theme, like this, from "simontemplar" (go figure -- "The Saint" was a Confederate apologist?):

Also too from "ChuckTX," who likes the meme so much that he keeps coming back with new accounts after we ban him, but who is also so proud of his thoughts that he wants credit -- so the new accounts have been "chucktx01," and so on:

    Dig up all those racist kkk founders and the members of the political party of which they belong too. Oops, they were Democrats .

Wow, this the lamest revisionist history I have read to date. Republicans have nothing to do with the flag or Forrest. Clearly. they are not defending Democrat behavior.

You are all over the map with your fallacious and weak conflations. What a mess of a post.

All historical institutional racism belongs to Democrats and it is their history.

When Indiana began the 2nd KKK rise, it was 1915 and followed Democrat Woodrow Wilson and his Jim Crow laws. Wilson stirred up segregation all over again [. ]

A calculation of 26 major civil rights votes from 1933 through the 1960's civil rights era shows that Republicans favored civil rights in approximately 96% of the votes, whereas the Democrats opposed them in 80% of the votes! These facts are often intentionally overlooked by the left wing Democrats for obvious reasons. In some cases, the Democrats have told flat out lies about their shameful record during the civil rights movement. The anti-civil rights politians were almost exclusively Democrats and many were Liberal. Contrary to liberal folklore, the Democratic segregationists were not all Southern -- and they were certainly not conservative. They were dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrats on all the litmus-test issues of their day. They voted left wing FDR New Deal policies, dumbass.

Funny, and then after the 1960s, history stopped. And yet we feel like there's still a name that hasn't been mentioned yet. Now who could it be. Happily, "Rayne" remembered:

That would be a weird thing for Virginia to do, seeing as how Sen. Byrd was from West Virginia! "Kyle Bradelle" remembered him and some other Southern Democrats too:

You can expunge all the history you want, but it still exists. Still you and your ilk serve a purpose--three weeks ago 75% of your target audience had never heard of Nathan Bedford Forrest beyond some obscure reference in the Forrest Gump movie.

But you may have a point. What other old racists shall we dig up? Al Gore Sr? George Wallace? Robert Bryd? Robert Byrd was a KKK Grand Dragon, but he served in Congress for over 50 years.

Why, yes he was! And he apologized, repeatedly, and in fact spent the second half of that Senate career trying to make amends. He was appropriately ashamed of his past, as he acknowledged in a 1993 CNN interview with Bernard Shaw:

Q: What has been your biggest mistake and your biggest success?

A: Well, it's easy to state what has been my biggest mistake. The greatest mistake I ever made was joining the Ku Klux Klan. And I've said that many times. But one cannot erase what he has done. He can only change his ways and his thoughts. That was an albatross around my neck that I will always wear. You will read it in my obituary that I was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

That's a bit different from the approach taken by Strom Thurmond, who ran for president as a segregationist Dixecrat, switched to the Republican party in 1964 and never renounced or apologized for supporting segregation.

Reminded by another commenter of Byrd's renunciation of the Klan (and his high approval rating by the NAACP), Kyle Bradelle replied,

We looked into that assertion, and it does seem that Forrest apparently did renounce the Klan, and later rejected his earlier racist views. Of course, these details aren't what Forrest's neo-Confederate fans tend to lionize him for, and as the Nashville Tennessean says, "many historians argue those actions are too little too late for the Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader." So hey, we learned a thing about Nathan Bedford Forrest, but we're not inclined to suggest that Memphis simply rename his statue and burial site as a Civil Rights shrine.

Mind you, we also learned that other figures from American history did bad things, so it would be wrong to move Forrest's bones to a private cemetery and take down his statue. "Simontemplar" had thoughts on this, too:

Huh. Well, in order: Custer was a bastard, and in fact shouldn't be honored. Washington and Lincoln's complicated histories should absolutely be taught in full -- but whenever teachers try to suggest that great heroes of American history were often seriously flawed, conservatives call them a bunch of America-hating commies and pass laws requiring that history focus on why America's heroes were wonderful. Andrew Carnegie built the thing, so he gets naming rights, we suppose, and Henry Ford was indeed an anti-Semite -- and honest history should acknowledge industrialists' flaws, not simplistically praise them as geniuses of capitalism.

Also, we had no idea that Washington was so controversial for his use of ointments.

We got a nice slippery slope fable from "dwstick" (we assume his first name is "Dip"):

After we dig up the Forrests and bury them elsewhere, let's all march on down to the local Public Library. There's bound to be some books there that offend us. We can have ourselves a good old-fashioned book-burning! Then on to the local museum. There's got to be a painting or statue that offends somebody that we can burn, too!

Who's with me?!

Of course, dwstick has another thought about why the Forrest statue must stay: because there are other problems that exist, and they won't be solved by doing this one thing:

If digging up the Forrests' bodies and burying them elsewhere will help rid Memphis of all it's past and current problems with racial discrimination, crime, poverty, bad schools, drugs, high unemployment, etc, I offer a counter-proposal:

In my pocket, I have some magic beans that I will gladly sell to the city of Memphis. Plant those beans throughout the city, and all the problems mentioned above currently affecting the city will magically disappear, just like removing the bodies will!

And I will sell them to you for less than it will cost to exhume and rebury those bodies!

Excellent rebuttal! Now explain to us why we must not enforce leash laws since that does nothing to reduce heroin use.

"Kurt Cook" had these similarly well-thought-out arguments in favor of keeping the statue where it is:

    Do you know which state it was that was the LAST to outlaw slavery?

New Jersey- a Union state! and they only outlawed it with the passage of the 13th amendment that outlawed slavery in ALL states. READ A BOOK!

That's pretty good advice about reading a book, though. It sure beats reading the thoughts of Confederate apologists.

From "Amerikan Citizen," we had this terrific insight into how to solve All the Problems Ever:

Every day, White people in urban areas all over this country have to see Blacks. Given that this is a reminder of the racist behavior of Blacks for the last hundred years, and of the anti-White crimes committed by them on a daily basis, I believe we should dig up the rotting remains of Black communities across the land, and give them what many Black activists have demanded for years-a Black Homeland, consisting of the following Mississippi, Alabama, & Georgia.

Let all who would live as Radical-Blacks move there, and remove all vestiges of the history of the area. They can create their own Utopia, or they can go the way of Detroit and Gary, two cities that famously have no Confederate gravesites or heritage, have been governed by Blacks for decades, yet, somehow, have still sunken to the status of Third-World shitholes.

In the meantime, it only makes sense to form an all-White ethnic Homeland, as well. Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, the Carolinas, the Virginias, Kentucky, and any other State that votes to join.

The remainder of the country could be an open-zone, free for anyone who wishes to live there to do so.

Save the bloodshed of another Civil War, let’s just do this and get it over with.

Egad -- having to see black people is certainly upsetting. But we really like your "ethnic homelands" concept, which is just as original today as it was in 1968. Would the relocated black people be required to wear dashikis?

Amerikan Citizen was joined on the Group W bench by "Jimmy Lemley," who apparently has gotten really good at avoiding language filters on other websites. See if you can guess what his REAL message is!

    I bet when you puzzys went to school the ni99ers didn't have to take your lunch money you just gave it to them

Also too, there was "Proudly Unaffiliated," who had this warning, for after the South Rises Again, we guess:

Finally, a thought on a different post but the same basic topic, from one "Martin Lewis," whose first name hasn't spoken to his last name for 20 years:

And darned if we'd ever have to worry about relocating any statue honoring Paul Lynde, either. READ A BOOK!

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


Remains of early KKK leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, wife removed from Health Sciences Park in Memphis

The remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife have been removed from Health Sciences Park in Memphis and taken to a vault in an undisclosed location in West Tennessee.

Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, Lee Millar from the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Brent Taylor, current Shelby County Election Commissioner who served as the funeral director overseeing the exhumation, spoke at a press conference Friday outside the park.

Work to remove the remains of the infamous Confederate general, slave trader, and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan began June 1 and was expected to take two to three weeks.

Workers discovered the remains on Monday, around 9:01 a.m., but no announcement was made until Friday, in order to allow time to confirm that the area had been properly searched for all artifacts, Taylor said. Taylor and Turner pointed out that the removal of the statue also took place at the timestamp for Memphis' area code, but in the evening, at 9:01 p.m. in December 2017.

The remains and statue are slotted to be reassembled and interred in Columbia, Tennessee at the National Confederate Museum at Elm Springs.

The construction crew started the excavation under the assumption that the remains would be found directly under the statue but when crews discovered the remains were likely deeper, the park became an archeological excavation site, according to Millar, who described the dig as a "tedious process."

NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST: The Confederate general involved in the Fort Pillow massacre of surrendered Union soldiers

The crew found a "Victorian cradle," containing the initials of Forrest, which tipped them off to the location of the Forrests' remains. Ultimately, the graves were found 10 feet below the plaza base with Forrest's casket being removed intact, but his wife's had significantly deteriorated. Her remains were placed in a temporary casket.

The park is slated to host a Juneteenth celebration, but the privacy fence surrounding the plaza will remain through the festivities, Turner said. He added that work in the park should be finished by July 1 but would have been completed last year had the pandemic not disrupted court dates.

Turner said plans to erect a new symbol in Forrest's place have not yet been discussed.

"Let's just let the park breathe, let's relax a little bit and enjoy the park," he said. "We're going to leave it up to the Memphians and the Shelby Countians [on the destiny of the park]."

The park, formerly known as Forrest Park, was purchased by Memphis Greenspace in 2017 when the equestrian statue was removed.

The statue of Forrest stood from 1904 to 2017 when the city of Memphis transferred ownership of the park to Memphis Greenspace, a nonprofit run by Turner, now a Shelby County Commissioner. Turner was intimately involved in the delicate legal process that led to work beginning early this month.

Descendants of Forrest were present when the caskets were unearthed, just as they were when they were first placed in the ground in November 1904. Millar said the Forrest family was relieved that the remains were located and that they would be placed in a secure location. He called it a "full circle moment."

A photographer captured the exhumation for Shelby County and the Forrest family, but it is likely that those photos will remain sealed, Taylor said.

"We wanted this process to be respectful, to be something that healed divisions," said Turner, describing a similarly "full circle" moment of having a Juneteenth celebration on the heels of the exhumation, a celebration of emancipation at a park that once did not allow Black people and has recently symbolized Memphis' divisions.

"I think the Forrest family wanted the remains of their ancestor to rest in peace," Turner continued, "because there was never going to be peace here."

The removal followed a robust grassroots organizing effort from Take 'Em Down 901 that drove public awareness and political pressure to remove the statues. The effort was spearheaded by now Shelby County Commissioner Tami Sawyer and Rev. Earle Fisher.

While work to exhume the remains took place, Commissioner Sawyer was taunted by a site worker as she addressed media. The man, 46-year-old George "K-Rack" Johnson, could be seen waving a Confederate flag, heard singing "Dixie," calling Sawyer a "communist piece of sh-t," and saying that "if you were a man, I would beat your a--" according to a police report.

Sawyer pressed charges and a warrant for Johnson's arrest was subsequently issued three days later. He was charged with misdemeanor assault, arrested and has since been released.

The ongoing tension surrounding the park "could have been a disaster," according to Turner. Instead, he said the two sides of the political spectrum were committed to working alongside one another.

"We have not had the issues other cities have had," Taylor said. "We did this right."


In Historic Vote, Tennessee Capitol Commission Votes To Remove Bust Of Confederate General And Other Military Figures

After hearing impassioned speeches from Black lawmakers, the Tennessee State Capitol Commission voted for the first time to remove the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

And, in a last-minute vote, the group also voted to take out two other military figures from the Capitol’s second floor.

The initial proposal — of removing Forrest— has been championed by Black Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, for years, as well as by activists.

“These monuments represent the values that unite us and the moral principles that guide our society,” Gilmore told the panel. “Nathan Bedford Forrest does not represent the values of Tennessee.”

Forrest was a Confederate general and believed to be the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He was also a slave trader and is often held responsible for the massacre of Union troops, many of the Black, at Fort Pillow in West Tennessee.

Gilmore explained how she feels every time she walks the hall of the state capitol and sees the bust.

“Tears come to my eye every time I get off the elevator and look at the Forrest bust,” she said. “I could hear the bells and the cries of the 200 surrendered soldiers. Soldiers that were surrendered but where still slaughtered by his command.”

The commission voted 9-2 for removal. A proposal presented by Comptroller Justin Wilson to remove all military figures out of the second floor of the state capitol was added during to the measure. That means memorials to Union Admiral David Farragut, whose bust stands opposite Forrest’s in the Capitol, and World War I Admiral Albert Gleaves will also be removed.

Wilson, Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Treasurer David Lillard — who all voted against removing Forrest’s bust the last time it was considered in 2017 — voted for it this time.

Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and House Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, voted against the removal. The two lawmakers represent state legislators on the commission.

Johnson said he polled state senators and that just over half told him they want the bust to stay. He said his vote represents the will of the upper chamber.

“I’m not compelled to do that,” Johnson said. “I’m not compelled to poll my members and vote according to their wishes, but I felt like it was important to have that conversation with all of the members of my body that I respect so much.”

State Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, and Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, asked the commission for the bust to stay.

Long process remains

The petition will now go to the Tennessee Historical Commission for a final vote. They won’t consider it until at least three months, and the process could take as long as a year.

Nonetheless the vote was seen as a victory for longtime opponents of the bust of Forrest, which has faced criticism since it was erected in 1978.

“I think he’s a traitor,” said activist John Smith. “I think he’s a traitor. This is the United States of America not the Confederate States of America. So it needs to come down out of a place of honor.”

Smith said he respects other people’s history and their desire to honor their heritage, but he thinks the Tennessee State Museum near the Capitol on the Bicentennial Mall is a more appropriate place for the bust to go.

Three years ago, the push to remove Forrest’s bust failed despite support from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. One reason the petition passed the State Capitol Commission this time was behind-the-scenes work done by Gov. Bill Lee to set up a vote.

Last month, Lee reappointed one of the commission’s few Black members, as well as naming two more Black men to the body. Those members all backed removal.

“This would not be a move to erase history,” said new commission member Hallerin Hill, a radio host. “Otherwise you wouldn’t spend a $160 million building a state-of-the-art, almost national-worthy [Tennessee State] Museum — that enshrines in the museum a separate section for the Civil War.”

Concerns about lack of access to meeting

One other point of contention at the commission meeting was access. The public was not allowed inside the room where the meeting took place, even though it was at a public building.

A spokesman for the commission chair told WPLN News the room could only be filled to half-capacity based on social distancing guidelines. So only press, state staff and lawmakers were allowed.

The meeting was streamed online.

Justin Jones, an activist who remained outside the room throughout the meeting, nonetheless celebrated the decision.

“We’ve been fighting for this for five years,” Jones said. “It’s a big victory for the movement, but is not enough. This is just one step forward.”

WPLN News’ Ambriehl Crutchfield contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the timeframe for a vote by the Tennessee Historical Commission. The earliest they could have a final vote is in February 2021.


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