The statues of Confederate General/Klansman, Nathan Bedford Forrest, (Health and Sciences Park) and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, (Memphis Park) were removed Wednesday (Dec. 20), to much relief as their expulsion turned into somewhat of a dramatic series.
Support for their removal first began to rise following the events of Charlottesville, Virginia – a deadly, white supremacist rally that stemmed from the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue – yet due to the state’s Confederate history, Tennessee denied the city’s bid to remove the statues, which forced Wednesday’s verdict.
In order to rid Memphis of the monuments, the city had to sell the parks that contained them. This resulted in the city council voting unanimously to sell the two parks to Memphis Greenspace, Inc. for just $1,000 each, and the private entity promptly removed the controversial monuments.
However, this democratic landslide is not indicative of the city’s collective feelings. Despite Strickland tweeting his gratitude surrounding yesterday’s events, certain organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans saw the removal as illegal.
Grateful for the leadership of Commissioner Walter Bailey and Rev. LaSimba Gray, who have been working on this issue for decades. I'm proud they're getting to see resolution tonight. pic.twitter.com/Hh4elmvutC
— Mayor Jim Strickland (@MayorMemphis) December 21, 2017
In an interview with Memphis’ WREG, a member of the group, Lee Millar, expressed his displeasure with the city government’s actions describing the sale as, “a deliberate attempt to avoid the state law and the city is breaking the law.”
Yet, despite sentiments similar to Millar’s, the removing of the Confederate statues can be seen as a promotion of progress for a city with a controversial racial history. A projection that Strickland seems to be using the dismantling of these monuments to embrace.
“History is being made in Memphis now,” he stated during a press conference Wednesday night. “These statues no longer represent who we are as a modern diverse city with momentum.”
If this “momentum” is continued with acts similar to Wednesday’s, Memphis can shift its image in the eye of black America. No longer will it be seen for its injustices, like the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., rather viewed as an inviting metropolis. And as a city with one of the largest African-American populations, this should be a change that Memphis is eager to make.