Admirers of the first Grand Wizard want to gussy up his legacy after his monument was beheaded.
Southern Military historians remember Nathan Bedford Forrest as a brilliant tactician, a "wizard of the saddle"—an innovator in cavalry military maneuvers. Others remember him as a slave trader, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and the murderer of hundreds of surrendered black Union troops at the battle of Fort Pillow.
There's a prominent monument to Forrest sitting in the Old Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama. Yup, that Selma. Ten years ago the City Council voted to have it moved from the front of a Civil War museum after it was repeatedly vandalized. The bust was then placed atop a seven foot pedestal of granite on a plot of land in the cemetery deeded to the Daughters of the Confederacy, where it remained unmolested, until March. That's when Forrest's head vanished.
Now the battle lines are being drawn once more. Admirers of Forrest plan to replace the bust and renovate the monument with a larger pedestal and fencing designed to thwart vandals. Local community activist Malika Fortier believes the City Council should finally take action and remove a monument that has "blighted our town too long," as she wrote on change.org:
People know Selma, Alabama as a city where Dr. King fought for civil rights. Selma was the launching point for pivotal protests that hurtled the voting rights movement into the national spotlight. It is also a city of tragedy: thousands of students, religious leaders, and families fighting for civil rights in Selma were arrested, injured, or brutally killed.\n
Monuments celebrating violent racism and intolerance have no place in this country, let alone in a city like Selma, where the families of those attacked by the Klan still live.\n
Fortier plans to present her petition to the Selma City Council on August 28, the 49th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I have a Dream speech. You can support her efforts by visiting change.org and signing on.