‘He enslaved black people. He tortured them’: Push progresses to remove Confederate bust from Tennessee capitol

Middle TN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The bust of a Confederate general is one step closer to being removed from the Tennessee State Capitol.

“It represents a symbol of hatred in Tennessee,” said Tennessee State Senator Brenda Gilmore. “We’ve seen other states around the country remove these monuments. And it’s time for Tennessee to also remove monuments that represent hate, and not unity.”

The Tennessee Historical Commission voted to accept the Capitol Commission’s waiver to relocate the Forrest bust from the state capitol.

Senator Gilmore has been a big proponent of removing the bust and said this vote was historic. She said since 1978 there’s been an appeal to the legislature and to the different commissions to remove that bust from the capitol.

“I think it’s an important step in the process of healing the great divide between blacks and white in this state. This bust has caused much dissension and has divided us and I see that the healing process can begin,” the Nashville Democrat said. “I don’t think the purpose was to erase history. I think it was just to send a strong message that this bust has caused a great division on this state and that we should not glorify Nathan Bedford Forrest.”

Forrest was a Confederate cavalry general who amassed a fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader before being an early leader of the Klu Klux Klan.

“I think it was just to send a strong message that this bust has caused a great division in the state and that we should not glorify Nathan Bedford Forrest because he enslaved black people,” said Gilmore. “He tortured them.”

This was the first step to getting the Forrest bust as well as the busts of David Glasgow Farragut and Admiral Albert Gleaves moved to the Tennessee State Museum.

Lt. Governor Randy McMnally said he’s concerned about precedent adding that this is the first time the state has contemplated the removal of a monument or statue in the capitol under the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.

“From the beginning, the goal has always been to follow the process and requirements laid out in current law related to the removal of an historical monument or statue under the Heritage Protection Act. In working with Lt. Gov. McNally and the legislature, Speaker Sexton feels like we have conveyed our thoughts and the correct direction moving forward,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton’s spokesman Doug Kufner in a statement to News 2. “While the Historical Commission has decided to proceed on this matter with today’s vote, we await Attorney General Slatery’s guidance to ensure this process has been precisely and lawfully followed.”

Senator Gilmore said the Heritage Protection Act gave protest opportunities for people who objected to removing the bust. That can be done through a review of the courts. Even if that doesn’t happen, Senator Gilmore said the earliest the bust could be removed is this summer.

That would mark roughly a year since the George Floyd protests that she felt helped to propel state leaders to finally support removing the bust after decades of work by advocates.

“There was a swell of people, not just African American but also White people, who wanted to see this wrong righted. And today there were White people and there were Black people who came out and said this is an injustice to continue to leave that bust there in a place of prominence,” said Senator Gilmore. “I think it’s all of those people that have come before us who have asked for the bust to be removed, I think an important role is Governor Lee asking that it be removed and I wanted to thank him publicly for that. And of all those warriors.”

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