Tennessee officials agreed Thursday to relocate the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Ku Klux Klan leader, slave trader, and Confederate General, from the State Capitol to the Tennessee State Museum.
“After more than a year in the making, this process has finally come to a close,” said Republican Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee, who voted in favor of the removal.
“I thank the members of the Capitol Commission, Historical Commission and State Building Commission for providing thoughtful input and ensuring confidence in the process. The State Museum provides the full historical context for these figures as we remember our state’s rich and complex past.”
The decision, which also includes proposals to remove Admiral David Farragut and Admiral Albert Gleaves busts, was approved 5-2, following recommendations from the State Capitol Commission and Historical Commission.
“Museums preserve historical objects to provide connections to the past and offer public spaces for reflection. We are prepared to place these artifacts in that setting,” Ashley Howell, director of the Tennessee State Museum, stated.
According to the museum, the relocation will begin on Friday.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton were the two leaders that voted against removing the busts.
“Trying to judge past generations’ actions based on today’s values and the evolution of societies is not an exercise I am willing to do because I think it is counterproductive,” Sexton said in a statement. “It is much more productive to learn from our past and not repeat the imperfections of the past. Any attempt to erase the past only aligns society with the teaching of communism, which believes the present dominates the past.”
McNally stated in a tweet that context, not elimination, was required. “No one is arguing that Forrest is not a problematic figure. He is. But there is more to his story,” McNally remarked.
Last month, workmen took Forrest’s remains and those of his wife from a Memphis park where he had a monument.