Tennessee officially celebrates birthday of Confederate general, KKK leader


Flags, statues, license plates, place names, and even bodies of the dead. Across the South, officials and activists have moved swiftly to expunge symbols honoring the Confederacy over the last month.

Add one more item to the to-do list of history today, as Tennessee officially celebrates “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day,” a holiday marking the birth of an early Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate general with a violent war record.

Gov. Bill Haslam issued a proclamation for July 13 noting Forrest is “a recognized military figure in American history and a native Tennessean” and asking Tennesseans to “join me in this worthy observance,” the Tennesseean reported. Haslam didn’t have much choice: state law requires “the governor of this state to proclaim” the holiday, and removing the day from the state calendar would require an act of the legislature.

Forrest, who built a huge fortune in the slave trade, was the Klan’s first “Grand Wizard.” He was a feared general during the Civil War, when he led a massacre of more than 200 union soldiers who had already surrendered at the 1864 Battle of Fort Pillow.

In Memphis, city officials are hoping to dig up Forrest’s grave—he’s currently buried in a city park—and move him to a private cemetery. The City Council voted unanimously to make that move last week.

The governor has also urged state leaders to remove a bust of Forrest from the state capitol. “Forrest would not be my choice of one of the Tennesseans that we honor,” Haslam said in June.

Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.

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