The Tale of Forrest Park

The National Park Service has placed Forrest Park in Memphis on the National Register of Historic Places.

Now many may be thinking, “OK, I guess that’s good.” Well allow me to explain why some people are upset with this.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, the man Forrest Park was named in honor of was a Confederate General, which is fine. The problem for many is that Mr. Forrest was also the founder of Ku Klux Klan in addition to a slave trader.

The designation, approved by the city of Memphis officials will likely ‘stir some feelings’ and  damper efforts to rename the park, where Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife are buried, according to The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, TN.

The eight-acre park, established in the 1900s, has long been a point of racial controversy, with local officials and other groups periodically rallying to rename the park and remove the statue of Forrest, a revered Civil War cavalry leader who also was a slave trader and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Some choose to only revere Mr. Forrest for his role in the Confederate Army and either dismiss or ignore the whole Ku Klux Klan & Slave trader thing. Others choose to only despise Mr. Forrest for his role in founding the Ku Klux Klan and ignore the whole General in the Confederate Army thing. I understand the reverence and despise of this historic figure, but I think both sides should be honest with themselves about this whole thing.

I can understand the need some may feel to learn about their history, but just like I embrace the achievements of my own heritage, I must embrace the degrading circumstances of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation of it too. You can measure your life by just the breath and height, you must include its length too. (Reference to “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”)

We have to be honest with ourselves and from who we come from. The heritage of my race is not 100% positive, it’s made up of heroes and villains. I only ask others to be as honest as I am when discussing and discovering those ‘unflattering’ attributes of your heritage.

I honestly understand why many people are upset over this latest action in regards to Forrest Park. It’s like having a Park named Simpson Park in honor of O.J. Simpson. We can only focus on his sports career, all of the other stuff isn’t all that important.

Hey, that’s not a bad idea. That way the same people who are in favor of Forrest Park will have to address the realities of having a park named after such a controversial figure.

You can’t pick and choose what aspects of a person’s history you should choose to admire without acknowledging the not so flattering aspects. No longer can we hide the facts of history behind the white robes of fear. Nathan Forrest is revered as a son of the south, but the son is unrepentant, a prodigal. I defend your right to honor who you please, but I shouldn’t hear any flack if I want to honor someone you may view as unrepentant, say someone like O.J. Simpson for example. I’m sure you understand the outrage of many. I only want to illustrate the feelings some may view this park. The reverence says more about the person who reveres it than the person revered.

Although I understand and can relate to the hatred towards a group that feeds on it I must insist that this isn’t the way we should go. Allow Forrest Park to become a symbol of a place not named after a man of hate, but a community of love and acceptance. The growing irrelevance of the group founded by Mr. Forrest is reflective of the irrelevance of hate and fear of an ideology proven to be self destructive.

References & Inspirations
Knox News – 03/20/09 “Forrest Park Placed on Historic Register
Wikipedia – “Nathan Bedford Forrest
Who’s Who of the Civil War – “Nathan Bedford Forrest

One thought on “The Tale of Forrest Park

  1. ARTICLE HINT: If you like this one, just wait until tomorrow. I finally address a related subject that has been a source of controversy for years.

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