TN Politics: Out of the Forrest; Still in the Woods

Dec 14, 2018

Political analyst Otis Sanford
Credit WKNO-FM

Under the cover of darkness, the cranes came for Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest a year ago this month. They plucked him -- and the horse he rode in on -- right off the pedestal he'd been standing on for more than a century. The statue's removal, along with another of Jefferson Davis and the bust of a soldier from a separate park, followed a trend in diverse Southern cities to remove Confederate monuments, many erected during the Jim Crow-era as Black populations grew, lynchings increased and segregation was contested.

For some Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly, it was important that this statue of a Ku Klux Klan icon and slavery enthusiast remain promiently displayed on public property in a majority African-American city. Legislators such as Rep. Andy Holt, a Republican from Dresden, compared the city's removal of its racist iconography to ISIS-style destruction of churches and mosques, adding "I like to tell my children that actions have consequences."

An east Tennessee right-wing talk show host Rep. Matthew Hill sponsored legislation to deny Memphis $250,000 in funding previously earmarked for the city's Bicentennial celebration next year. It passed, with state Republicans loudly booing the black Memphis Democrat who called their move "vile" and "racist."

As lawsuits continue, we talk with political analyst Otis Sanford about the continuing saga of the monuments and what impact, if any, their removal has had on the city.