Ku Klux Klan to Rally For One of Their Own

Fort Pillow

It should come as no surprise that the Ku Klux Klan is planning a rally to protest the renaming of Forrest Park in Memphis, Tennessee.  Organizers expect thousands to attend.  If this protest does materialize with substantial numbers it will present something of a conundrum for Southern heritage advocates who believe that Forrest’s significance to American history can and ought to be understood independently of his role as a wealthy slave trader, commanding general at Fort Pillow and early organizer of the Klan.

Heritage advocates might find it difficult to align themselves with the Klan even though they both hope to achieve the same goal.  They can also stand with the majority of the city of Memphis and the rest of the country, but in doing so it seems to me that they assist in making the case for the change of name.  The Klan intends to celebrate its heritage and it is going to be a tough sell to argue that they don’t have history on their side.

15 comments… add one
  • Patrick Young Feb 10, 2013 @ 8:28

    A problem for the Heritage supporters is that while Forrest was never a member of their organizations, he was a member of the Klan.

  • doug didier Feb 10, 2013 @ 6:15

    Long time ago.. Obtained an original print at auction.. At the time most civil war buffs thought it to be a work of exaggeration .. After all the series portrayed north superior even in lost battles..

  • Mike Hawthorne Feb 9, 2013 @ 6:45

    Didn’t Grand Wizard Forrest officially disband the KKK, making the later organization’s claim to his heritage fraudulent?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 9, 2013 @ 6:49

      Such a claim completely ignores the role of the Force Acts which were passed during Grant’s administration. It also downplays the fact that subsequent extra-legal groups such as the White League and Red Shirts continued to terrorize African Americans.

  • Lyle Smith Feb 9, 2013 @ 5:58

    There was another Klan rally in Philadelphia this past week.


    I’d show my face at that rally. 🙂

  • Patrick Young Feb 8, 2013 @ 15:47

    The problem of oppressors’ statues in cities later controlled by their once-subject peoples are hardly unique to the US. In Ireland a gigantic pillar with a statue of Lord Nelson stood in the middle of Dublin until a socialist splinter group from the IRA blew it up. The statue was immortalized in this Clancy Brothers song :

    Lord Nelson stood in pompous state upon his pillar high
    And down along O’Connell Street, he cast a wicked eye
    He thought how this barbaric race had fought the British crown
    Yet they were content to let him stay right here in Dublin town

    So remember brave Lord Nelson boys, he had never known defeat
    And for his reward, they stuck him up in the middle of O’Connell Street

    Well for many years, Lord Nelson stood and no one seemed to care
    He’d squint at Dan O’Connell, who was standing right down there
    He thought “The Irish like me or they wouldn’t let me stay
    That is except those blighters that they call the I.R.A.”

    And then in 1966, on March the seventh day
    A bloody great explosion made Lord Nelson rock and sway
    He crashed and Dan O’Connell cried in woeful misery
    “There are twice as many pigeons now will come and sit on me”

    [Dan O’Connell had led the Irish emancipation movement in the first half of the 1800s. His statue was near Nelson’s]
    Here is video of the song:

    Not suggesting a bombing, but perhaps some satire.

  • Boyd Harris Feb 8, 2013 @ 15:21

    So….are they going to leave his statue, his body, and his wife’s in the park? If it is just a name, then I think it is a good move. I am a little uncomfortable with the removal of statues, not to mention disinterring the Forrests again (Forrest and his wife’s bodies were disinterred from Elmwood in 1904 and moved to Forrest Park). Also there is a marker next to the statue that honors Forrest’s great-grandson Nathan B. Forrest, III. He was shot down over Kiel while leading a bombing run. This is going to be a real dill of a pickle for the City of Memphis to figure out.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 8, 2013 @ 15:25

      I pretty much agree with you, Boyd. It creates all kinds of problems and does little more than push the underlying issues out from public view. I much prefer reshaping the park in a way that allows for those interested to reflect on the community rich and often controversial past.

      • Jazzeum Feb 9, 2013 @ 5:36

        I agree because although it’s not pleasant history it’s history and you don’t want to forget that it happened or who he was and represented.


      • Robert Baker Feb 9, 2013 @ 6:17

        I was speaking with a reenactor friend over measures that might be taken to preserve the park. i recommended compromise. Like you said Forrest Wells would be a terrific name. I also suggested a concentration on Memphis native Nathan Forrest III, who is as much of a hero as Memphis could ask for.

  • Gregg Jones Feb 8, 2013 @ 15:05

    I could never understand it. Forest banned the Klan in 1869 as I understood it. If he was the legal leader (for lack of a better term) and was legally authorized to make this action, how can the Klan still be up and running? Last, it seems like this is a sign of disrespect to Forrest by the Klan. Oh, they could call them selves with a different name and corporate status (non-profit or whatever) but how can they still rally under the name of the KKK?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 8, 2013 @ 15:09

      Seems to me that the KKK sees this as a way to honor Forrest’s life. Whether we decide to link the reorganization of the Klan in the 20th century with with its predecessor is purely a matter of semantics.

  • Scott A. MacKenzie Feb 8, 2013 @ 15:02

    We’ll have to see if the S.C.V. or similar groups will appear. They may not wish to be linked with the K.K.K.

    • R E Watson Feb 9, 2013 @ 5:56

      I don’t know about that. There may be a lot of dual memberships ! 😉

    • Andy Hall Feb 15, 2013 @ 22:14

      The Tennessee Division of the SCV has now formally said they don’t want the Klan involved in this dispute. It only took them a week.

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