A monument in honor of the Ku Klux Klan’s original “Grand Wizard”, Nathan Bedford Forrest, is getting renovated in Selma, Alabama this month. The Friends of Forrest organization in the small town have announced that they plan to resurrect the monument after it was officially moved from public property shortly after 2000, NBC reports.
Before its removal from public property in 2001, people had participated in outright protests in which they performed a mock lynching and threw trash at the figure. Earlier this year, the bust of Forrest was stolen from its pedestal and now both the Friends of Forrest and the United Daughters of the Confederacy have ordered a new bust and plan to put up extra fencing to protect the monument from further attacks.
The monument has done anything but soothe racial tensions in Alabama and across the country. Forrest was not only a general in the Civil War who mercilessly killed as many as 250 black soldiers during his campaigns, he was also the first head of the Ku Klux Klan. Democratic Senator Hank Sanders pointed out to WSFA 12 News that General Forrest unnecessarily killed surrendered black soldiers who no longer posed an active threat during the Civil War. In his own words:
Here’s a man who killed African-Americans who had surrendered, who were not a threat to anybody, (who)formed the Ku Klux Klan… And yet we are talking about a monument to him.
Sanders is among many thousands of people who are pushing the Selma City Council to stop the restoration of a monument to a person who incited and led racist movements during a violent and dark period in United States history. His name is nearly synonymous with white supremacist movements the world over. Just think of the film ‘Forrest Gump,’ in which the main character explains the origins of his name while historic footage plays of Klan members riding horses.
Currently the monument sits on an acre of land that is currently under contestation. Sanders has argued that the land is owned by the city while members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy have argued that it is private property owned by the organization.
Supporters of the monument’s restoration believe their rights have been infringed upon while building an even larger monument than the one that went up back in 2000. One man from the Friends of Forrest, Todd Kiscaden, told WSFA that Forrest was an exemplary person, stating:
I recommend this man to model his life after… He always led from the front. He did what he said he was going to do. He took care of his people, and his people included both races.
A wider and more general consensus has clearly sided with the idea that General Forrest is an icon of American racism at its most extreme. Malika Sanders-Fortier has made perhaps the most salient point about why the monument is upsetting, “Monuments celebrating violent racism and intolerance have no place in this country, let alone in a city like Selma, where the families of those attacked by the Klan still live.”
The restoration of the monument has brought back the very real legacy of Civil War and Jim Crow racism. The city council will face an uphill battle if they decide to pursue a removal of the bust because the land most likely falls under the control of private groups and not the city.
Photo Credit: Culby