The removal comes amid an ongoing count of symbols and statues that critics say glorify U.S. racist history.
A project to move the remains of a Ku Klux Klan leader from a park in the southern United States – the latest action in a continuous counting about the symbols that critics say honoring the country’s racist past – have already begun.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a leading pro-slavery Confederate army general during the American Civil War, and the first leader, or “Grand Wizard”, of the racist Ku Klux Klan organization from 1867 to 1869.
The remains of Forrest, who died in 1877, have long been marked on a pedestal in a park in Memphis, Tennessee. The pedestal features a Forrest statue from 1904 to 2017, after it was removed by the park’s non-profit owner.
– Rev. Earle J. Fisher, Ph.D. (@Pastor_Earle) June 1, 2021
On Tuesday, construction began to remove the pedestal, the first step to dismantle the bodies of Forrest and his wife, which occurred after a lengthy space movement and legal manipulation by local officials.
The removal was initially slowed by opposition from the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group of male descendants of Confederate soldiers.
Although the group dropped a lawsuit and agreed to transfer more last year, tensions remained high on Tuesday, according to local media.
Tami Sawyer, a Shelby County commissioner who led the effort, had a brief confrontation with area workers on Tuesday as they dumped trash on a Black Lives Matter sign painted on the ground near the pedestal. , according to the local newspaper Commercial Appeal.
A worker carried a Confederate flag and sang the unofficial anthem of the Confederate states – Dixie’s Land – as Sawyer told reporters.
“We’re not post-racial America, we’re not post-racial Memphis, this hatred and this racism is big and strong,” Sawyer, signaling to the worker, agreed in a video posted online.
The debate over the removal of Confederate memorials has raged in the U.S. over the years as the country examines the complex racial past. The movement gained new life among a renewed thrust for racial justice after the mass killings of Black people by police in 2020.
The issue is especially sensitive in Memphis, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Forrest remains a controversial figure in Southern history, with some celebrating his combined military career.
A slave trader and owner of cotton plantations, Forrest’s troops were accused of killing hundreds of surrendering American Union Army soldiers at the Battle of Fort Pillow in 1864.