From the Capitol, the busts of Nathan Bedford Forrest and two others will be relocated to the Tennessee Museum.
According to the Associated Press, a bust of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, as well as two other military leaders, will be moved from the Tennessee Capitol to the state’s history museum.
The action, which was approved by the State Building Commission on Thursday by a 5-2 majority, comes after years of complaints against the Forrest bust’s installation in the Capitol in 1978. After announcing in 2018 that he would not campaign for the bust’s removal because “the Ku Klux Klan is a part of our past that we’re not proud of in Tennessee, and we need to be reminded of that,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee suddenly reversed course and expressed support for its removal.
“Removing the likeness of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a position of honor in Tennessee’s Capitol is a signal for much-needed reconciliation, much like this bust symbolizes the sorrow and suffering of slavery and terror,” said Black lawmaker Sen. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis.
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The seven-member State Building Commission approved the removal of Forrest’s bust, putting an end to a decades-long battle.
Some have suggested that the bust be given more historical background.
The Black legislative caucus in Tennessee has been particularly vocal about how hard it has been to walk by the bust, which is publicly exhibited between the House and Senate chambers, on a daily basis.
“There is no doubt that more work needs to be done to achieve equality and justice for all people, but today’s vote demonstrates that progress is possible,” added Akbari. She is also the Democratic caucus chairwoman in the Senate.
Forrest was a Confederate cavalry officer who made his fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader in Memphis before the Civil War. Following the war, he became a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, which persecuted Black people in an attempt to undo Reconstruction and reinstate white dominance.
The Tennessee Historical Commission voted 25-1 earlier this year to move the three busts just north of the Capitol building to the state museum, citing that it was better suited to provide the necessary historical context.
Top Republican leaders in the Statehouse, on the other hand, maintained that the bust could not be removed without the agreement of the State Building Commission. Speaker Cameron Sexton of the House of Representatives and Senate Speaker Randy McNally of the Senate. This is a condensed version of the information.