Painful history should not be erased

By Mary Chase Breedlove
Thursday, February 14, 2013

The state of our union looked significantly different around this time 150 years ago.

No living American remembers what our country was like in 1863. Those 150 years might as well be an eternity away from our technologically-advanced, comfortable lives. None of us know what owning a slave feels like. Most of us don’t know what being a slave feels like. None of us know what goes through your mind when you pull the trigger and blast a ball of lead into the chest of  a man — once a fellow American — now deemed a “damned Yankee.” We don’t know what living during the bloodiest war on American soil was like. The American Civil War was a dark time in our nation’s history.

Last week, the Memphis City Council changed the names of three parks in the city originally bearing Confederate-themed names. Confederate Park, Jefferson Davis Park and Nathan Bedford Forrest Park — complete with a statue of the general — are now Memphis Park, Mississippi River Park and Health Sciences Park. The city council rushed to make this change before the state legislature could pass the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2013, preventing historical landmarks, plaques, parks and other monuments on public property from being renamed or changed.

City council members seem to have varying opinions on the matter of changing the park’s name. Some find the Confederate landmarks offensive, others do not. Various groups have protested to change the parks’ names over the years, but until now, there was no action upon the requests. Changing the names of the parks will not rid the city of racial tension. Re-writing history will not fix the problem. We cannot simply pick and choose which areas of history we care to remember. The Civil War happened, whether we like it or not.

Should the South glorify the ideals of the Confederacy? Absolutely not. Southern Americans who hold fast to the idea of the South rising again clearly do not understand the implications of such a statement. During the Civil War, many Americans thought owning another soul was permissible. This ignorance and hatred fosters the feud surrounding this entire situation and others like it.

The South’s heritage of the Confederacy should not be erased from history books. My ancestors fought and died in the Civil War, on behalf of the Confederacy. Memories of the Civil War should be a reminder of our past: of where we came from, what we learned and how we can prevent our nation from tearing apart.

Renaming the parks has only fueled the anger and wrath of radical groups like the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest was one of the founding members of the original KKK, a group of six well-educated, angry Confederate soldiers that spiraled into something terrible.

Since the parks’ renaming, the KKK has threatened to visit the parks and protest. And it will continue to threat and protest, like it always have and will, because … it’s the KKK. But this time, they’re clinging to the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest. They don’t need to have a “reason” to protest.

Having Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park in the city of Memphis should serve as reminders of our past, our history, our heritage and our mistakes.

A few miles down the road sits the National Civil Rights Museum and Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. Memphis has always been a city of diversity and rich history; what better way to represent the actions of our past than by having memorial landmarks of both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement?

The Confederate-themed parks represent a time of division, war and loss. The Lorraine Motel represents how a nation was able to heal — through pain, violence, sadness and peace — and bring an entire generation of oppression into freedom.

© 2013 – The Reflector

On The Web: