‘Goodbye to the Past’ 

Greenspace clears out more Confederate artifacts from Memphis Park.

Memphis Greenspace started removing the remaining Confederate memorabilia from Memphis Park Saturday "to say goodbye to the past" and now also has full state approval to relocate the Confederate statues the nonprofit removed from two parks late last year.

On Saturday, the nonprofit began the process to temporarily relocate the Jefferson Davis statue pedestal, two additional Confederate markers, a sculpture of the Ten Commandments, the battlement cannon, the fencing around the statue pedestal, and the MPD SkyCop.

The Confederate materials will eventually be moved to an undisclosed, safe location. The cannon, fence, and MPD SkyCop will also eventually be returned to the city of Memphis.

click to enlarge The now-gone statue of Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park. - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • The now-gone statue of Jefferson Davis in Memphis Park.

"We're expediting our efforts to relocate current Memphis Park items because we feel the dramatic increase of positive energy flowing up and down Riverside, and we want to continue to be a part of its success," said Van Turner, director and president of Memphis Greenspace. "There are many incredibly forward-thinking organizations in Memphis that all share a vision of a diverse, inclusive future for Downtown public space, from the Downtown Memphis Commission to Fourth Bluff and Memphis River Parks Partnership. To create that future, we need to say goodbye to the past."

However, no similar moves are under way at Health Sciences Park.

"For Health Sciences Park specifically, the ongoing litigation about the relocation of Confederate markers has been a roadblock," Turner said.

The Memphis Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) said on Facebook last week that the suit is the "only reason the monsters in Memphis" haven't removed the graves of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from Health Sciences Park. That post included a link to the nonprofit Citizens to Save Our Parks, a group organized to pay legal fees for the suit. In 2016, the group raised $31,164, according to tax documents.

"They stole the story from the park, but they can't hide the truth," the SCV wrote on Facebook of the news of the weekend's removal activities at Memphis Park. "It is up to all of us to tell the story of our Confederate ancestors. THEY CANNOT SILENCE US!"

In plays for donations to the legal fund, SCV wrote in several posts over the weekend, that "we still have a chance to preserve the Forrest Graves and historical markers there," and that "cities destroy our history yet we patronize their restaurants, stores, and hotels," and "by our apathy, our enemies have gained the upper hand. They don't have to raise a finger, we are handing our heritage over to them."

Greenspace said it has also received word from Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's office that it is free to solicit formal requests for the relocation of the Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest statues that were removed last year.

"We've already had numerous requests from many organizations willing to take the Confederate statues and other memorabilia," Turner added. "We will entertain requests from parties interested in housing the statues, but the Memphis Greenspace board of directors will use discretion when vetting those interested."

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