City Council should take stand on monument

Published 11:56 pm Friday, August 31, 2012

Dear editor,

The city of Selma is a very unique place. We are fortunate enough to be rich in African-American history and also in Confederate-American history. While, Confederate-American History is not the most popularly-discussed in the history books, it is still history and should be discussed. There is one name that comes to mind, especially in Selma, in reference to Confederate History and that is Nathan Bedford Forrest. I’m not going to insult the intelligence of the readers and give an extensive background, because I’m sure we are all familiar with it. I will mention one fact besides the obvious one, that he is known as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, the organization notoriously perceived for their violent and malicious acts against individuals (mostly blacks) dated as far back as the late 19th Century.

Forrest is also remembered for his controversial involvement in the Battle of Fort Pillow in April 1864, when his troops massacred black soldiers following a Union surrender. So in short terms, Forrest portrayed a monumental role in the attempt to destroy the African American race.

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One would think that with such an extensive background, we would leave him in the books. This seems to not be the case in the city of Selma. Last March, the bust of Nathan B. Forrest which quietly sat in a graveyard went missing. With that being said, the “Friends of Forrest,” have ordered a new statue and this one looks to be quite larger than the first.

This endeavor has caused quite the controversy around the city. Now Selma is not the only city in the United States that has made attempts to honor this infamous individual. There are many monuments and state parks named after him throughout Tennessee. You will also find a Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Nevertheless, please understand that all of this did not come without controversy.

In all these cases, I am disappointed that municipal governments would even allow these strides to continue on public ground, in which we pay taxes for. Building a statue of Forrest in any way is equivalent to the Germans building a statue of Adolf Hitler or the Russians building a statue of Joseph Stalin. All could have something positive to say about them, but at the end of the day all of them were instrumental in the murders of innocent Russians, Jews, and African Americans.

So the fact that we are even considering honoring this person and the Selma City Council will do nothing to interfere is a blatant disrespect to the African American citizens of this city.

Please do not misconstrue. I have no issue if you want to honor Forrest, but there are other mediums of doing so. May I suggest writing a book or developing a fan website? To the “Friends of Forrest,” let your voices be heard, but not on city grounds. To the Selma City Council, whose current administration has been a disappointment since 2008, I challenge you all to do what’s right and step in to offer alternatives so we all can be happy and move one step closer to where Selma can no longer be considered a bipolar city.


Collins Pettaway, III, B.A.

Youth Coordinator, Alabama Democratic Conference District 7