Commissioners on the Metro Board of Parks and Recreation voted unanimously Tuesday to start the process of removing a Confederate monument from Centennial Park.
State law prohibits moving, removal and renaming of memorials on public property unless given special permission by the Tennessee Historical Commission. The parks board’s vote today means the body will petition the state commission for a waiver.
The parks board had previously thought about relocating the monument back in the summer of 2019, after it was vandalized. At that time, the board considered moving it to an area of Centennial Park known as Flagpole Hill, where it would set alongside other Civil War monuments with additional language to contextualize it. It ended up voting to keep the monument in its current place but add supplemental language.
However, in light of demonstrations this past summer and a changing national conversation about what place Confederate monuments should have, Commissioner Susannah Scott-Barnes asked to revisit the issue. She calls the monument a “divisive symbol,”
“We hadn’t seen any additional vandalism or any activity around it, but that might have been due to the fact that it was behind a chain-link fence,” she says.
All commissioners in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting voted in favor of removal, initiating a lengthy approval process.
Even if the Tennessee Historical Commission does let Metro remove the monument, it could be a while before the statue leaves Centennial Park. The commission has yet to decide on the fate of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust in the Capitol rotunda, which the State Capitol Commission voted to move to the Tennessee State Museum along with two other Tennessee military figures. That petition was submitted back in August.
After the parks board’s request to remove the monument, the state historical commission has to wait at least 60 days before holding an initial hearing. That means the earliest it could begin to consider the Metro Parks request is March.