Critics point to other identities according to which the state should not celebrate from year to year: the slaver. Confederate General. First great magician of the Ku Klux Klan.
While southern communities are wondering whether the commemorative monuments of Confederate personalities should be removed, Tennessee's annual recognition day – prescribed for decades by state law – is leading to renewed bipartite backlash.
"It's FALSE," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) Friday, highlighting the Confederate leadership roles of Forrest and KKK. "Tennessee should not have an official day (tomorrow) in its honor. Change the law. "
Forrest Day has been a holiday in Tennessee since 1921, said State Librarian Eddie Weeks in Tennessean. Since 1969, Forrest is honored by a day of observation. The state code enlisting Forrest Day states that the governor must also proclaim commemorations, including the Robert E. Lee Day on January 19 and the Confederate Decoration Day on June 3.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) did not say Thursday whether he wanted to change the law, according to the Tennessean. His office did not respond to a request from the Washington Post.
"I signed the bill because the law requires it, and I have not considered changing this law," Lee said.
Lee said that he would not support the removal of a Forrest bust as controversial as the state of Capitol. He says he does not want to "whitewash history", echoing the common arguments of conservatives who regard Confederate statues and monuments as important elements of historical archives. Others say that monuments commemorate people with racist stories, inviting worship rather than critical scrutiny.
US representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) Wrote on Twitter Friday that "Gov. Lee should bring #Tennessee in the 21st century not go back in the 19th. "
Tennessee State Representative, Harold Love Jr. (D), said that 2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first slave ships in Jamestown, Virginia, making the memorial memorial of Forrest particularly discouraging.
Love, who plans to help introduce a bill next year to amend the law, rejected the idea that the governor had no choice in the proclamation.
"What's the penalty if he does not sign it?" Said Love to The Post newspaper Saturday. "I mean, he's not going to jail."
Forrest's legacy has been hotly debated, said Courtney Carney, a professor at Stephen F. Austin State University, who writes a book about the image of the Confederate General. His advocates sometimes downplay his most criticized roles, claiming, for example, that he was kind to his slaves. And Carney says the Tennessee state law is erecting obstacles to Forrest's erasure, making it more difficult to remove a statue of this man from Memphis – and the end of Forrest Day.
Over the years, Forrest has gained a "mystique", particularly in Memphis, where he had ties, said Carney. The city's withdrawal of its more than 100-year-old Forrest statue in 2017 sparked negative reactions from politicians who wanted to keep the memorial. Last year, a Republican-dominated national assembly voted in favor of the city's suppression of the statue's suppression, following protests by lawmakers denouncing Forrest's legacy.
Love, who attempted to remove the bust of Forrest from the Capitol, said that the Forrest monument belongs – if any – to a museum, with a proper context on the identity of that man. Having the bust on Capitol Hill is "insulting," he said, particularly to members of the state legislature who, as he is, are descendants of slaves.
Forrest is examined not only for his leadership in the Confederacy and the KKK, but also, in particular, for his role in a battle of the 1864 war known as Mass Pillow Massacre. The clashes have made hundreds of dead Union soldiers.
One witness described horrendous injuries to northern soldiers, many of whom were black.
"I saw several colored soldiers of the American Sixth Artillery, their eyes bayonet; many of them were shot twice and bayonet, "said Robert S. Critchell, a sailor from the Union.
The memoirs at Forrest have been drawing protest for years, Carney said. With Forrest Day back in the news, critics are once again demanding a change. Carney thinks that the war around the memory of Forrest says more about the past than the historical figure.
"There is enough ambiguity in the file to allow people to insert their own story," Carney said.
But the clear facts of Forrest's involvement in the KKK have attracted condemnation from people from all walks of life, even some who – like Cruz – are generally opposed to the removal of monuments to "imperfect men" ". said in another tweet.
"And, we should not publish today proclamations honoring the Klansmen," he said.
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