Sunday, August 20, 2017

Gubernatorial Candidate Fitzhugh Wants Forrest Bust Gone from State Capitol

Democratic House Leader from West Tennessee says it's time "to take Confederate monuments and the evil they represent down."

Posted By on Sun, Aug 20, 2017 at 6:44 PM

State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh
  • State Rep. Craig Fitzhugh

State Representative Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), one of two Democratic candidates for Tennessee Governor, has called for the removal of a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the state Capitol building.

Fitzhugh, the Democratic leader of the state House, noted that he had called for the action"over a year ago" and was repeating his insistence on the removal of the bust of Forrest — "a slave trader, Confederate lieutenant general, and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK."

Pointing out that Confederate memorials are still in place in the state "150 years after slavery ended," and citing the "horrific events" of Charlottesville, Virginia,  Fitzhugh declared, "It’s time to show that Tennessee is ready to take Confederate monuments and the evil they represent down". The Senator's statement was apparently broad enough to apply as well to the current controversies in Memphis involving downtown monuments to Forrest and to Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Asked about the two Memphis statues, Fitzhugh said he thought that localities should have the option to do as they wished about such matters without "Nashville telling them what to do."

State Senator Sara Kyle of Memphis has introduced legislation that would exempt Shelby County from the 2016 Heritage Protection Act requiring a 2/3 vote of the state Historical Commission to effect a removal. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and the City Council are also on record as favoring removal.

Fitzhugh and former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean are the two candidates who have declared for Governor as Democrats. Four Republicans have announced: Former state Ecionomic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd; Franklin businessman Bill Lee: state House speaker Beth Harwell, State Senator Mae Beavers, and 4th District Congressman Diane Black.

As of now, Fitzhugh is the only active candidate from West Tennessee, though Boyd, a Knoxvillian, claims ancestral roots there.

Fitzhugh's statement on the monuments issue is as follows:

 The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that "there is nothing new under the sun." And unfortunately, that's true for what happened in Charlottesville.

The horrific events came as no surprise to African Americans across this country who — 150 years after slavery ended — still contend daily with its legacy of weakness, avarice and evil. Nor are they a surprise to Jewish and Muslim people, nor immigrants who have faced hate and bigotry committed by those who knowingly and unknowingly benefit from their oppression.

I cannot ever truly know what it is to carry the burden of that legacy. I can, however, acknowledge that it exists, check my own privilege, and use whatever platform I have to help plot the way forward.

In that spirit, I joined Republicans and Democrats calling for the removal of the statue of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest — a slave trader, Confederate lieutenant general, and the first Grand Wizard of the KKK — from the Tennessee Capitol building over a year ago.

It’s time to show that Tennessee is ready to take Confederate monuments and the evil they represent down. Will you stand with me and ask the Capitol commission and Historical commission to remove the Forrest monument?

History is important, especially that history which we do not wish to repeat. But the place for that history is a museum — not a pedestal in a building meant to serve every Tennessean of every race, religion, and culture.

Moving the bust of Mr. Forrest is a basic first-step toward the greater goal of reconciliation — and one our state legislature must take as quickly as possible.

Only when we acknowledge the sins of our past, can we begin to address the systemic impacts they have had on health care, education, and economics that are so deeply ingrained in our institutions.

Let us resolve to start now.


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