NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Meharry Medical College President and CEO Dr. James Hildreth passionately explained Wednesday why he believes the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest should be removed from the Tennessee State Capitol building.
Dr. Hildreth was taking part in a PowerPoll Zoom presentation about COVID-19 and racial disparities in health care when the conversation broadened to systematic racism.
“When I see him, what I see is the lifeless bodies of Black folks hanging from the trees,” said Dr. Hildreth, “I smell burning flesh and I hear the moans and wails of families watching their families being killed. Maybe if they saw what I saw, heard what I heard, and smelled what I smell when they looked at this thing, they would understand why this raises so much emotion for us.”
Dr. Hildreth is an infectious disease expert and has been a member of Mayor John Cooper’s COVID-19 task force providing daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in the city.
In May, Dr. Hildreth spoke with News 2’s Alex Denis after the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer, and said the video of Floyd’s death “crushed him.”
“I’ve tried my best in the role that I’m in to avoid politics and getting into the racial stuff, but when I saw the video of what happened in Minneapolis, I was crushed,” said Dr. Hildreth back in May.
Dr. Hildreth testified before Congress, and was the first African American Rhodes Scholar from Arkansas to attend Harvard. The doctor went on to study at Oxford and Johns Hopkins University and is internationally recognized for his research on HIV and AIDS.
“Every time I think we’ve made some progress, something happens to remind us that maybe we’ve not come as far along as we thought we were,” said Dr. Hildreth back in May.
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of community unrest across Middle Tennessee: