Tennessee officials are expected to take the first step toward removing the bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from inside the Capitol.
Gov. Bill Lee says he will convene the State Capitol Commission to meet and vote next week.
Tennessee law gives the commission the first say on the bust, but even if it supports removal, there’s no guarantee it would move. It would set up a much lengthier review by the Tennessee Historical Commission — deliberations that Lee says he support.
“This process is the opposite of the mob rule that unfortunately has been dominating the national headlines around historical displays,” he says. “I have confidence that our process here in Tennessee, with the Capitol Commission, will be fair and representative of Tennesseans.”
Meanwhile, the governor has re-appointed a Capitol Commission member: Nashville’s criminal court clerk and former Vice Mayor Howard Gentry, who is Black. He joins the recent addition of the president of historically Black Lane College.
The move comes as demonstrators worldwide are calling for removing memorials to racist figures — and in some cases toppling them themselves. In Nashville, protesters have taken down a statue of segregationist newspaper publisher Edward Carmack that has stood outside the state Capitol and are calling for his rival, Ida B. Wells, to be honored in his place.
Getting rid of the bust of Forrest is also among their demands. In addition to commanding Confederate cavalry, Forrest was a slave trader and the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
They said Lee’s announcement is a sign that their campaign is working.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand.” —Frederick Douglass
It is the constant pressure of THE PEOPLE, not letting up on @GovBillLee about removing this KKK statue in Tennessee’s Capitol that finally forced him to act.#TakeItDown#FreeCapitolHillTN https://t.co/rszU4CvbEz
— Justin Jones (@brotherjones_) July 1, 2020
Correction: The headline on this story has been updated to reflect that Gov. Bill Lee has called for a meeting to discuss removing the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, but he has not proposed removal himself.