Since Dylan Roof, a white supremacist, shot and killed nine members of a black church in Charleston on June 17, 2015, Confederate symbols have stood at the center of much controversy across the United States. Although the Confederate battle flag remains the most obvious example, the debate took a particular form in Tennessee, centering on the image of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Born in 1822 to a poor family, he left school early to work. Although his work in the slave trade made him a millionaire, his later participation in the massacre of over 300 black soldiers at Fort Pillow in 1864 during the Civil War and association with the Ku Klux Klan cemented his reputation as a violent racist. Yet, many white Tennesseans praised him as a hero and memorialized him. This thesis examines Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park in Benton County and Forrest Park, now Health Sciences Park, in Memphis to examine what characteristics denote a controversial memorial. Specifically, I focus on the physical form, the location, and the demographics of the area, investigating how these components work together to give rise to controversy or acceptance of the memorial's image. Physical representations greatly impact the ideas associated with the memorial while racial demographics affect whether or not Forrest's representation as a hero speaks true to modern interpretations and opinions.
- A Ghost Set in Stone: The Memory of Nathan Bedford Forrest in Tennessee
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