Amid the nationwide protests calling for an end to systemic racism following the death of George Floyd, Tennessee lawmakers voted to keep a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in its current condition inside the state capitol building. Forrest, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, served in the Confederate army during the Civil War, where he was a general.
Had the vote gone the other way, the bust of Forrestt would have been replaced with someone else, a more deserving native of the state. The resolution had been in play since January before the turmoil that has swept across the country. The vote went 11 to 5 in favor of keeping the bust. The tributes for Forrest, though, aren't all in the clear as another house bill remains. This one calls for the removal of the observance of Nathan Bedford Forrest Day every July 13. That bill passed through the House Naming, Designating and Private Acts Committee on Tuesday and now will head to the House Calendar and Rules Committee.
Rep. London Lamar of Memphis is sponsoring the bill. He said the goal of it is to show that Tennessee is moving in the right direction. "We are going to continue to make Tennessee a welcoming state for everybody," Lamar said, according to Nashville's News 4. "That we are going to recognize that we don't have a perfect past, but we can get it right."
This bust wasn't the only statue to find itself in hot water. In Philadelphia, former mayor Frank Rizzo saw his statue come down. His tenure was filled with controversy after urging voters to "vote White" in the 1970s. During the protests in the city in the wake of Floyd's death, his statue was vandalized. Shortly after, the message was received loud and clear as the city was taken down. The current mayor, Jim Kenney, tweeted that the statue represented "bigotry, hatred, and oppression."
Across the country, many historical figures, from statues to buildings, are being reconsidered for its ties to slavery and oppression. Another example of this lies at Clemson University, where both NFL superstars DeAndre Hopkins and DeShawn Watson have expressed their support for the removal of a statue of John Calhoun, which is located at the school's honors college. Calhoun was an advocate for slavery in the 1820s. Hopkins shared his message of support on Instagram, saying that "now is the time for change."