Confederate General Takes Last Ride in Memphis Night

Dec 21, 2017

The statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest came down first Wednesday, Dec. 20, followed by the state of Jefferson Davis in another city park. The action came minutes after the city council approved selling the two parks to a private nonprofit entity.
Credit Houston Cofield for the Memphis Daily News

The bronze statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Memphis' Health Sciences Park was removed Wednesday at a symbolic 9:01 p.m., after a city council vote handed the park to a nonprofit organization, thus circumventing a state law forbidding Tennessee cities from removing "war memorials" on public land. 

The statue, in place for more than 100 years, was dedicated to a general best known for leading a massacre of black Union soldiers at Ft. Pillow, north of Memphis, and for being an early figurehead of the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest had been a prominent Memphis slave trader prior to the Civil War. 

At the time the statue was installed, the corpses of Forrest and his wife were moved from Forest Hill Cemetery and placed under the statue, making it both a tribute to the secessionist and a hero's grave. To the city's growing African-American population, the imposing equestrian statue (along with another of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in a nearby park), represented the efforts of white southerners to assert political dominance and psychic oppression as white leaders crafted Jim Crow laws.

The city of Memphis sold Health Sciences Park and Memphis Park to a group called Memphis Greenspace Inc. for $1000 each. The nonprofit was chartered in October and is headed by attorney and Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner. 

WKNO's Partner, the Memphis Daily News, has this detailed account by Bill Dries.