Target: Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell
Goal: Take down the bust of a KKK leader from the Tennessee capitol building.
The first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan is being honored in the Tennessee statehouse with a copper bust that is more than four feet tall. Tennessee’s government cannot honor such a person and at the same time claim to work on behalf of all the state’s citizens. Demand that this statue be removed from the Capitol at once.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a general in the Confederate Army who amassed his personal fortune before the war broke out through the slave trade. During the war it is generally accepted that he allowed the soldiers under his command to massacre black Union soldiers that they had taken prisoner. To top off this grotesque resume, after the Confederacy was defeated, Forrest was elected the leader of the newly-founded Ku Klux Klan—a position with the title of “Grand Wizard.”
Despite this, a bust of him is a point of prominence in Tennessee’s statehouse. Since Tennessee is no longer a slave state and ostensibly views people who are not white as equal to those who are, the issue with this man being honored in the halls of its government should be entirely clear. Forrest should not represent Tennessee, but as long as the statue of him sits in its Capitol, that’s the message being communicated.
Symbols representing the Confederacy’s racism, oppression, and white supremacy need to be put in museums, not kept in the halls of our government. Sign the petition below to demand that the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest be removed from the Tennessee statehouse as soon as possible.
Dear Lieutenant Governor Ramsey and Speaker Harwell,
I am writing you both today to discuss the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest that sits comfortably in the Capitol. This bust clearly should never have been put in your statehouse in the first place, but in light of recent tragic events its presence can no longer be tolerated.
The massacre in Charleston against the black Emanuel A.M.E. Church that left nine innocent people dead made clear what effects our continued embrace of symbols of the Confederacy and racism can wreak in our country today. When a government maintains its connection to these symbols, it reads not as a veneration of history, but as an explicit endorsement of violent oppression and white supremacy.
The fact that Forrest was the Grand Wizard of the KKK puts this in such stark relief that it would make the continued presence of his statue in your statehouse absolutely laughable if it weren’t so violently inappropriate. I does not matter if he was born in your state of if he was a great military leader—he forfeited his right to be honored by any level of American government when he supported, in thought and deed, white supremacy.
There is no justification for this statue to remain in your Capitol. I demand that you both gather the votes necessary in each of your legislative bodies to ensure that this bust be removed from the building as soon as humanly possible.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Underwood & Underwood