ACLU-Tennessee urges removal of Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from state capitol

Posted at 1:34 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 14:34:45-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee is calling for the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from the state capitol.

The State Capitol Commission will hear testimony and vote Thursday on whether to remove the bust from the capitol or keep it in its place.

On Wednesday, the ACLU-Tennessee released a statement in support of removing the bust, calling Forrest "a brutal architect of structural racism." Read their full statement below:

“We strongly urge the State Capitol Commission to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust from our state capitol.
As a brutal architect of structural racism, Nathan Bedford Forrest represents the forces that undermine the basic framework of civil liberties and civil rights in the United States. Honoring him with a bust in our statehouse is antithetical to the values of decency, respect and equality that most Tennesseans share.
What we choose to represent and honor in public spaces matters. When visitors to our state capitol are greeted by a monument to slavery and white supremacy, it sends a clear message that our government endorses the oppression and inequality that the bust represents. It is past time for the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust to be removed.
Taking down Confederate monuments is not about erasing our history. It is about addressing a serious moral failing in our country by educating the public about our nation’s dark history of white supremacy and slavery. Telling the truth about our history is the only way to move forward.
Removing the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the capitol would move us a step closer toward ensuring that the history we choose to celebrate and honor in our public spaces reflects respect and dignity for all Tennesseans.”

Forrest's controversial history in the state has spurred numerous protests in and around the capitol building. He was a known slave trader, Confederate general and the first grand wizard of the KKK.

Governor Bill Lee said the issue is outside of his control and is up to the capitol commission.

If the commission votes to take it down, the issue will then be discussed by the Tennessee Historical Commission.