Instead of moving the statue of General Forrest (and remains of the General and Mrs Forrest), why don't we create one or more historical markers depicting the slave trade in Memphis and the General's role as a slave trader.We can place them next to the statue. There are hundreds of historical markers in Memphis and Shelby County, but not one describes the slave trade or even mentions that Forrest was a slave trader. I understand why many want the statue to be moved. For generations we have depicted Forrest as a war hero, and neglected to discuss Forrest the slave trader. It is difficult to discuss slavery and the slave trade. But that is part of our history and we must discuss it.
By keeping the statue there and placing these new markers next it; we use both as a teaching tool, free for anyone to examine.
Last, no one has talked about what it would cost to move the statue and graves, and who would pay for that. It would be far less expensive to place, say, two historic markers next to the statue.
Mike Freeman, Shelby County Historical Commission 2012-
William D Miller wrote about the lynching of Eli Persons in the last chapter of his book, "Memphis in the Progressive Era 1900-1917." This book was published in 1957 by the Memphis State University Press, so I imagine it is difficult to find. As far as I know it is the only book written about Memphis of that time period to mention that lynching. Miller compared the behavior of the people who killed Eli Persons to the barbaric Roman executions of 1900 years before.
Thanks for the story and editorial. Next to the Forrest statue, we should, at least, place a marker about the General's role in the slave trade before the war and his role in the Ku Klux Klan after the war. We have never told the entire story of Forrest's public life, only the battlefield, heroic moments. In fact, we don't have a single marker that describes the slave trade in our city's history. The slave trade is an unpleasant topic to officially "mark." But historic markers are not meant to be pleasant, they are meant to teach. Congratulations to Helena for their attempt to teach all of the past.
By Toby Sells
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