The Tennessee legislature isn’t going to remove a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Capitol building.
But that isn’t stopping some Nashville protestors who want the state to stop recognizing the Ku Klux Klan leader.
The monument to Forrest has been in the Tennessee State Capitol since 1978. And Nivedhan Singh, an educator from Nashville, notes people have opposed it since the beginning
“I don’t know why we are still talking about it. Like, why is it still there?” Singh said at a rally against the bust in Nashville Wednesday. “It was inappropriate to make it in the ’70s; it’s inappropriate as hell to be here now.”
Calls to eliminate monuments to the Confederacy have again grown louder amid protests against entrenched racism and injustice. In Richmond, Va., a serious effort is underway to remove a prominent statue of Robert E. Lee, and in Jacksonville, Fla., the Republican mayor ordered a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier to be taken down.
Forrest was a slave trader, Confederate general and likely the first grand wizard of the KKK. The title itself is believed to have derived from his nickname, “The Wizard of the Saddle.” The bust honoring him is on display between the House and Senate chambers. Tonia Andaluz, a nurse from Thompson’s Station, says it belongs in a museum.
“This can’t be in my state capitol because that’s where I go for justice,” she says, “and Nathan Bedford was the exact opposite of justice.”
A Vanderbilt University poll shows 75 percent of voters across both parties agree the bust should be removed. But earlier this week, state lawmakers rejected a pair of proposals to move it.
On Wednesday, Gov. Bill Lee refused to say whether he believed the bust should be removed.
“What’s really important is that we not draw lines and choose sides,” he says. “It’s that we understand that these answers are complicated, and they require dialogue.”
Nashville resident Marlteze Saffold says the Forrest bust is not representative of the state’s values.
“If Nashville and the state of Tennessee is going to be one of America’s great states and one of America’s great cities, then we can not continue to perpetuate those type of ideas and values,” Saffold said. “And that is what that bust does.”