Tennessee Lawmakers Punish City of Memphis for Removing Confederate Statues

Protesters rally against the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in front of a statue bearing his likeness Aug. 13, 2005, in Memphis, Tenn. The park’s name was changed in 2016. In December 2017, the statue of Forrest himself came down.
Photo: Carlo Allegri (Getty Images)

You think you know petty, but do you know Tennessee Legislature petty?

Tennessee state lawmakers are still big mad about the removal of a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest—a Confederate general best known for his brutal massacre of black Union soldiers and for being the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard—from a Memphis public park. So mad, in fact, that on Tuesday the state Legislature moved to punish the city of Memphis for its actions.


As the Washington Post reports, Tennessee’s Republican-dominated House voted to strike $250,000 earmarked for Memphis’ bicentennial next year in response to the city’s removal of the Forrest statue as well as a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The penalty was added via an amendment to a $37.5 million spending bill.

State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, a Democrat who represents the majority-black city, said the penalty was “one of the most vile, racist acts I’ve seen happen in the Legislature.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) criticized the decision via Twitter, saying that the Tennessee House of Representatives “sadly continues to embarrass Tennessee across the nation.”


The city of Memphis orchestrated the removal of the Confederate statues in December of last year after a request to take down the statues was denied by the state’s Historical Commission.

Memphis city officials worked around the restrictions by selling the public land on which the statues were located, then voting to remove the statues—a measure that passed unanimously. Within minutes of the vote, equipment and personnel, including a heavy police presence, were at the sites ready to take down the statues.


Memphis city officials were eager to remove the statues before the 50th anniversary this month of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?