On July 7 the Memphis City Council voted to dig up the body of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and sell the statue of him “to anyone who wants it.”
The feeling was that the exhumation and removal of the statue would begin post haste. But a number of legal barriers may prevent that from happening, one of which is the Tennessee Protection of Heritage Act, passed in 2013.
The Tennessean explains that the Heritage Act “specifically protects any monuments recognizing, among other wars, the ‘war between the states’ that sit on public property.” The Heritage Act makes clear that “no statue, monument, memorial, nameplate or plaque” erected to honor a number of wars, including the Civil War, that is on public property “may be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, rededicated, or otherwise disturbed.”
Ironically, the Nashville Scene reports that the Tennessee Protection Of Heritage Act was passed in 2013 because of the actions of Memphis City Council at that time. It was amid city council efforts “to change the names of three different Memphis parks: Confederate Park, Jefferson Davis Park and Nathan Bedford Forrest Park,” that state legislature passed the act to protect Tennessee’s heritage.
The Memphis City Council moved and was able to change the names of the three parks by beating the act’s enactment.
Ironically, Forrest is buried Health Sciences Park which, until 2013, was called the Nathan Bedford Forrest Park. It is where all attention is now focused as the city pursues action that the Heritage Act may forbid.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.