MTSU still battles the longstanding history of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest

Special Reports

Monuments and Middle Ground

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — General Nathan Bedford Forrest has long been the face of Confederate history across the state of Tennessee. In fact, he was once the mascot at Middle Tennessee State University.

Decades later, his name is still heralded on the campus’ ROTC building — one students and administration have fought to change.

“Forrest Hall is actually the last remaining remnants of the confederate past,” said Sarah Calise, an archivist at the Albert Gore Research Center on MTSU’s campus.

In the early 2000s, students began to protest the name of Forrest hall, even creating petitions to rename the building.

“They need to understand the impact that things of this nature have on students,” said Braxton Coleman, founder of the MTSU Black Caucus. “So, every generation of students — there’s someone like me — that finds this out and it shatters their reality of a college experience.”

Attempts to rename Forrest Hall failed in both 2016 and 2018.

“The state has strict laws,” said Calise. “Specifically the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act has made it nearly impossible to get things like this removed… to get confederate monuments renamed, removed, altered, modified.”

President Sidney A. McPhee released a statement to News 2. It reads, in part:

“I continue to believe that renaming Forrest Hall is the right thing to do. We felt we made a very compelling argument to the Tennessee Historical Commission in 2018 on why changing the name was in the best interest of the university, so we were disappointed that our request failed to receive approval from two-thirds of the commission as required by law.
The name of a building should be a net positive, or at least neutral, to our campus. However, the name of this building, and the emotions it evokes, distracts from the values, goals and priorities we share as a modern, inclusive and comprehensive university.”

President Sidney A. McPhee

University administration continues to monitor the evolving developments of the Nathan Bedford Forrest bust inside the State Capitol. The same commission responsible for the bust removal, is responsible for approving the renaming of Forrest Hall.

Recent social unrest has renewed debate over Confederate monuments and if they represent history versus hate. News 2 digs deeper into how Tennessee is coping with its Confederate past, present, and future. Read more on Monuments & Middle Ground here.

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