Tennessee to remove bust of Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from state Capitol

Tennessee officials voted Thursday to remove the bust of a Ku Klux Klan and Confederate leader Nathan Bedford Forrest from the State Capitol and into the Tennessee State Museum.

“After more than a year in the making, this process has finally come to a close,” said Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee, 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 vote was 5-2 in favor of the move — which also includes plans to remove the busts of Admiral David Farragut and Admiral Albert Gleaves — and followed recommendations by the State Capitol Commission and Historical Commission.

Forrest was a Confederate general, slave trader and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

“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,” Tennessee State Museum Director Ashley Howell said.

The museum said the relocation will start Friday.

The two officials who voted against removing the busts were Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

“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 said in a tweet that context was needed, not removal. “No one is arguing that Forrest is not a problematic figure. He is. But there is more to his story,” McNally said.

Last month, crews removed the remains of Forrest and his wife from a Memphis park where a monument of him once stood.

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