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Petitioning Memphis City Council

Remove the Statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from Health Sciences Park

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a racist, plain and simple. His entire life was dedicated to the oppression of black people. Before the American Civil War, he was the richest slave trader in the country, so much so that his trade was called the second Middle Passage. During the war, he was a Confederate general, who, at the battle of Fort Pillow, shamelessly massacred hundreds of black Union soldiers who'd surrendered to him under the pretext that they'd only be taken as prisoners of war. 80% of the black Union soldiers died were slaughtered, while only 20% of white Union soldiers died. Later on, after the Confederate states lost the Civil War, he continued his reign of terror by re-enslaving thousands of black men under the "black codes," laws which permitted any black person guilty of a crime to be sent to a plantation to work for indefinite amounts of time. Many of the re-enslaved were in fact innocent, and given unfair trials. The Freedmen's Bureau, an organization, which, based on President's Island in Tennessee, was dedicated to the betterment of newly freed slaves. Nathan Bedford Forrest bought the island from the Bureau and turned it into a prison for black men to be re-enslaved. This is not even the tip of the iceberg. Forrest's worst offense? He was the founding member of the Ku Klux Klan.

There is a statue, right now, in Health Sciences Park in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, my hometown, honoring this despicable man, a racist, slaveowner, slave trader, slaughterer, and oppressor of the black race. I feel ashamed and awed by the ignorance which still permeates the South when I am forced to drive by a likeness of him which presents him as a heroic figure. This man has achieved legendary status in the South, and this is not the only memorial to him. There are cities, towns, counties, parks, statues, memorials, and countless other things that bear his name (not to mention the hundreds of other Confederate memorials) standing proudly in southern states. In fact, he park's name was not Health Sciences Park until recently, it had been named Nathan Bedford Forrest Park. This statue is important, however, because of the fact that he is buried underneath it. 

 

This statue is an outrage to a city which is overwhelmingly majority black. Memphis has a long statnding tradition of racism and hate, and any black person living here can speak of a time when they have seen overt racism. This statue and others just like it only attest to the blatant racism which still has its stranglehold on the city. Forrest's obvious connection to the hatred-filled KKK makes this memorial both offensive and disgusting. To compund the atrocities already being celebrated by his memorial, the statue is less than 5 miles away from the Lorraine Motel, also know as the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assasination. 

There has already been a successful petition which renamed the park, (which the KKK adamantly protested against, you can watch the video from VICE magazine here. Klansmen teamed up with a Memphis gang to protest another group of Klansmen's rally.) and now I ask you to help me to get the statue removed and his grave relocated. Please sign this petition.

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  • Memphis City Council

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