Nathan Bedford Forest (The Memory Palace)

Episode 73:
Notes on an Imagined Plaque to be Added to the Statue of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Upon Hearing that the Memphis City Counci has Voted to Move it and the Exhumed Remains of General Forrest and his Wife, Mary Ann Montgomery Forrest, from their Current Location in a Park Downtown, to the Nearby Elmwood Cemetery

 

Episode 8 of the 2015 Summer Season

Music
* Under the credits is Harlaamstrat 74 off of John Dankworth’s Modesty Blaise score.
* First up (and returning at the end) is Sandra’s Theme, from Heather McIntosh’s fantastic score to Compliance, a very good, very disturbing movie.
* We hit Frank Glazer leading Charles Ives’ Largo for Clarinet, Violin and Pianoa couple of times, framing…
Runaway from Olafur Arnalds.

Notes:
*The key to researching this episode turned out to be an article in The Journal of Southern History from 2001 by Court Carnay called, “The Contested Image of Nathan Bedford Forrest.”.
* Also particularly useful was Nathan Bedford Forrest: a Biography, by Jack Hurst.
* As was Lynching in America: A History in Documents, compiled by Christopher Waldrep.
* Much of my information about the contents of the ceremony and speeches was gathered from this, the digitized journal and scrapbook of Charles Henry Niehaus, the sculptor of the monument. It’s an extraordinary resource.
* And let us all read Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases, by Ida B. Wells. And let’s put her on the $10 while we’re at it.

Tennessee governor declares day honoring Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a proclamation declaring July 13 Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. Forrest was a Confederate general, slave trader and an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to the Tennessee code, the governor must declare January 19 as “Robert E. Lee Day”; February 12 as “Abraham Lincoln Day”; March 15 as “Andrew Jackson Day”; June 3 as “Memorial or Confederate Decoration Day”; July 13 as “Nathan Bedford Forrest Day”; and November 11, as “Veterans’ Day.”

“I signed the bill because the law requires that I do that and I haven’t looked at changing that law,” Lee said Thursday.

According to The Tennessean, Lee declined to say if he thought the state law should be changed — something Tennessee Democrats have been hoping would happen. Previous efforts by Democrats have failed.

“This a reminder of the painful and hurtful crimes that were committed against black people,” Rep. Vincent Dixie of Nashville told WTVF.

Dixie said he was previously unaware July 13 was Nathan Bedford Forrest Day in Tennessee and criticized Lee’s decision to sign the proclamation.

“Now you’re signing a proclamation honoring the same people that fought to keep people that look like me, African Americans in slavery,” Dixie said.

There is a bust of Forrest in the state capitol and there is a highly-visible statue of him on Interstate 65. There have been calls to remove the bust. The statue, which is on private property, is frequently defaced.

How Southern socialites rewrote Civil War history

The United Daughters of the Confederacy was a significant leader of the “Lost Cause,” an intellectual movement that revised history to look more favorably on the South after the American Civil War. They were women from elite antebellum families that used their social and political clout to fundraise and pressure local governments to erect monuments that memorialized Confederate heroes. They also formed textbook review committees that monitored what Southern schoolchildren learned about the war. Their influential work with children created a lasting memory of the Confederate cause, and those generations grew up to be the segregationists of the Jim Crow Era in the South.

We Are Not the Resistance

Donald Trump is the one who is pushing back against the new nation that’s struggling to be born.

.. Unlike the Tea Party, which was born after President Barack Obama’s inauguration and which spawned a proliferation of well-funded, loosely affiliated right-wing groups determined to hijack the Republican Party and push it further to the right, the only common denominator for “the resistance” today is a commitment to resisting Donald Trump — the man, not necessarily his mission.
.. The writer was quick to clarify that he or she was not part of the “‘resistance’ of the left.” Quite to the contrary, the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the expansion of the military-industrial complex and, by extension, the slashing of vital social services were not only fine by him or her but a cause for celebration.

One might argue that the big tent of “the resistance” is its greatest strength: A massive united front becomes possible when the barrier to entry is so low. If you’re revolted by Trump’s tweets and feel terrified by his access to the nuclear codes, you too can join the resistance.

.. Resistance is a reactive state of mind. While it can be necessary for survival and to prevent catastrophic harm, it can also tempt us to set our sights too low and to restrict our field of vision to the next election cycle

.. Viewed from the broad sweep of history, Donald Trump is the resistance. We are not.

.. the long, continuous yearning and reaching toward freedom flows throughout history “like a river, sometimes powerful, tumultuous, and roiling with life; at other times meandering and turgid, covered with the ice and snow of seemingly endless winters, all too often streaked and running with blood.”

.. Harding was speaking about black movements for liberation in America, but the metaphor applies equally well to the global struggle for human dignity and freedom.

The Guatemalan mother desperately fleeing poverty and violence in her home country stands at the border, young child in her arms, yearning for freedom no less than the American mother hundreds of miles away who puts her hands to the plexiglass in a prison visiting room, desperate to hug her child who sits quietly on the other side.

The movements that have arisen to honor the dignity of both women — movements to end mass incarceration and mass deportation — are separate streams feeding the same river.

.. Donald Trump’s election represents a surge of resistance to this rapidly swelling river, an effort to build not just a wall but a dam. A new nation is struggling to be born, a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, egalitarian democracy in which every life and every voice truly matters.

.. Confederate statues are coming down as new memorials and statutes are going up in Montgomery, Ala.

.. For many, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency symbolized the imminent birth of this new America, and many whites feared their privileged status, identity and way of life would die in the transition. The reaction was swift and fierce. It shouldn’t have been surprising.

.. As the historian Carol Anderson documented in “White Rage,” every single advance toward racial justice in this country has been met with virulent, often violent, resistance.

.. Every leap forward for American democracy — from slavery’s abolition to women’s suffrage to minimum-wage laws to the Civil Rights Acts to gay marriage — has been traceable to the revolutionary river, not the resistance.

.. In fact, the whole of American history can be described as a struggle between those who truly embraced the revolutionary idea of freedom, equality and justice for all and those who resisted.

.. There’s a reason marchers in the black freedom struggle sang “We Shall Overcome” rather than chanting “We Shall Resist.”

.. Similarly, those who opposed slavery didn’t view themselves as resisters; they were abolitionists.