The bust of a Ku Klux Klan leader, Confederate general and slave trader has been removed from the Tennessee state capital after more than four decades on display.
The removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue on Friday came after the state building commission approved its transfer to the Tennessee State Museum on Thursday by a 5-2 vote.
“After more than a year of preparation, this process has finally come to an end,” said Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who voted for the impeachment and had previously said he believed the raid should move last summer.
“I am grateful to the members of the Capitol Commission, the Historical Commission, and the State Building Commission for providing thoughtful input and ensuring confidence in the process. The state museum provides the full historical context of these figures as we reminisce about our state’s rich and complex past. “
Members of the state legislative black caucus celebrated the removal of the bust. Representative London Lamar tweeted that she was thrilled by the decision. “I’m not even going to lie, this moment made me shed tears !! Recognizing this moment honors those who died because of racial injustices. They are the heroes, ”he said.
“The keyword that keeps coming to mind is the word finally,” Justin Jones, a Nashville-based activist who has been leading raid-related protests since 2015, told the Tennessean after Thursday’s vote. “Finally the commission has taken a step forward. Finally, they have recognized that this statue is wrong and what it represents does not represent the state of Tennessee. “
Lamar and Jones could be seen celebrating the removal on Capitol Hill in photos and videos posted on social media.
“Eliminating the possibility of Nathan Bedford Forest being a place of honor in the Tennessee capital is a symbol of much-needed reconciliation. We certainly have work to do to achieve equality and justice for all people, but today’s vote shows that progress is possible, ”said Raumesh Akbari, chairman of the Democratic caucus in the state Senate.
According to the Tennessean, the two votes opposing the measure were cast by the presidents of the House and the Senate.
“This is not the end. It is the beginning,” Lt. Governor and Senate President Randy McNally said in a statement. “The left will move to the next figure or monument and demand that we once again kneel at the altar of political correctness.”
Forrest served as a Confederate cavalry general, traded with enslaved people, and owned a plantation. Later he was leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
The bust was installed in the state capitol in 1978, despite fierce opposition. A newspaper clipping from 1980, republished by the local television station. WBIR, shows the leaders of the Tennessee chapter of the Ku Klux Klan meeting under the bust in their robes and hoods.
McNally argued that Forrest was a controversial figure but that there was more to his story. “His life ultimately followed a redemptive arc that I hope will be described in great detail in our state museum,” McNally said.
The busts of Union Navy Admiral David Farragut and United States Navy Admiral Albert Gleaves were also moved to the Tennessee State Museum. The relocations were part of an agreement that military leaders should no longer appear on Capitol Hill.