Know how I know America is cool with racism? Politicians in Tennessee thought that putting a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the KKK, in the state Capitol was a good idea in 1978. It only took them over 40 years to finally realize that having a monument to a leader of the KKK in the state Capitol maybe wasn’t the best look.
According to the Associated Press, the bust of Forrest was removed from the state Capitol on Friday. Since this is America, there were some who wanted the bust to stay up but with added historical context. I’m going assume that would’ve just been a plaque that said “this nigga was mad racist. Like, mad racist.” Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Lee and several other politicians argued for the bust to be transferred to the Tennessee State Museum.
In addition to being the first grand wizard, Forrest was also a slave trader in Memphis and a general in the Confederate army. If there was a grand slam of racism, Forrest more than meets the criteria to win it.
Tennessee’s Black legislative caucus advocated for the bust’s removal. The bust was displayed prominently between the House and Senate chambers, and the caucus was vocal about how disparaging it was to have to walk past it on their way to work.
“Removing the likeness of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a place of honor in Tennessee’s Capitol is a symbol for much needed reconciliation. No doubt we have work to do to achieve equality and justice for all people, but today’s vote shows that progress is possible,” state Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Black lawmaker from Memphis, told AP.
The bust was removed following a 5-2 vote by Tennessee’s State Building Commission. In addition to the bust of Forrest, busts of Union Navy Adm. David Farragut and U.S. Navy Adm. Albert Gleaves were also moved to the state museum as part of an agreement that military leaders shouldn’t be displayed in the Capitol.