The elimination comes amid an ongoing countdown to symbols and statues that critics say honor the racist history of the United States.
A project to move the remains of a Ku Klux Klan leader from a park in the southern United States: the most recent action in continuing to count about the symbols that critics say honor the country’s racist past – it has begun.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a pro-slave Confederate army general during the American Civil War and the first leader, or “Great Magician,” of the racist organization of the Ku Klux Klan from 1867 to 1869.
The remains of Forrest, who died in 1877, have long been marked by a pedestal in a park in Memphis, Tennessee. The pedestal kept a statue of Forrest from 1904 until 2017, after it was removed by the nonprofit organization that owns the park.
– Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Ph.D. (@Pastor_Earle) June 1, 2021
Work began on Tuesday to remove the pedestal, the first step in disrupting the body of Forrest and his wife, which came after a lengthy grassroots movement and legal maneuvers by local officials.
The retreat was initially halted by opposition from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group of male descendants of Confederate soldiers.
Although the group suspended a lawsuit and agreed to move the wreckage last year, tensions remained high on Tuesday, according to local media.
Tami Sawyer, a Shelby County commissioner who led the effort, had a brief confrontation with local workers Tuesday as they dumped trash on a Black Lives Matter sign painted on the ground near the pedestal, according to local newspaper Commercial Appeal.
A worker carried a Confederate flag and sang the unofficial anthem of the Confederate states – Dixie’s Land – while Sawyer spoke to reporters.
“We’re not post-racial America, we’re not post-racial Memphis, that hatred and racism is big and strong,” Sawyer said, gesturing toward the worker, according to a video posted online.
The debate over the removal of Confederate memorials has been on fire in the United States for years as the country examines its complicated racial past. The movement has gained new life in the midst of one renewed drive for racial justice after several notorious black murders by police in 2020.
The issue is particularly sensitive in Memphis, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Forrest remains a controversial figure in southern history, and some celebrate his Confederate military career.
A slave trader and owner of cotton plantations, Forrest’s troops were accused of executing hundreds of African-American Army soldiers surrendered at the Battle of Fort Pillow in 1864.