The plague of racial animosity will never leave Memphis while The Commercial Appeal continues to publish the mixture of racial hatred and lies that Wendi Thomas misrepresents as journalism. Thomas’ Jan. 13 column ("Forrest marker stopped by black man") celebrating the arbitrary removal of a city-approved marker from Forrest Park is replete with falsehoods.
Thomas scorns the idea that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a great military leader, calling him a murderer. Presumably she is referring to the capture of Fort Pillow. Even a cursory examination of letters and reports of the Fort Pillow battle from the Union’s Official Records of the war, published in 1880, demonstrates that the charge of a massacre following the battle misconstrues the facts. In particular, accounts by both Union and Confederate witnesses demonstrate that Forrest put a stop to any violence occurring after the battle.
Forrest did not found the organization now operating as the Ku Klux Klan. The current Klan, composed of religious and racial bigots dedicated to violent resistance to the equal rights of all Americans, is not the vigilante organization Forrest joined (not founded) and briefly led during the strife-torn era of Reconstruction. Forrest ordered it disbanded precisely because it turned violent.
Forrest opposed the bigoted philosophy and beliefs later adopted by the Klan when it was resurrected years after Forrest’s death. The logical inference is that a statue and park dedicated to Forrest honors a man opposed to the philosophies of the Ku Klux Klan. Thomas is reviling a man who agreed with her, simply because of her own irrational bias.
The reality is that Forrest represents, at minimum, a self-made man who demonstrated an ability for personal growth and reform. Does all of this mean that Memphis absolutely must have a park and statue named in Forrest’s honor? Not necessarily. But if The Commercial Appeal is to allow its columnists to advocate either side of this dispute, is it too much to ask that it do so with the truth?