Interestingly enough, kissing a black woman in public, when you are a white man she can't say no to, seems not to erase people's memories of Fort Pillow.
I mention this because there seems to be some confusion over in Memphis about whether we can't still use Forrest as some kind of valuable teaching tool about history and the Civil War. Chris Peck at the Commercial-Appeal says he'd like to see a Nathan Bedford Forrest exhibit at the Civil Rights Museum.
In a year that will mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Memphis could make real social progress by trying to bridge the gap between those who say the war was about states' rights and those who say it was about slavery. In fact, wasn't it about both? The Southern economy in the 19th century was driven by cotton farming and cotton exports, which gave the South its own culture and class system. But that regional economy couldn't have prospered without the indefensible practice of human slavery and free labor. Could Memphis at least agree on that much 150 years after the fact?
Regardless of what you think the reasons for the Civil War were, there were black Memphians at Fort Pillow. Nearly all of them were killed. But you know what? They had families. Their communities suffered from their loss. What would a Nathan Bedford Forrest exhibit at the Civil Rights Museum do but reinforce the idea that Tennessee puts more stock into redeeming him than mourning them?
All I'm asking is that we give Nathan Bedford Forrest a rest. Let's not put up ugly statues of him. Let's not fight over where to put his dead body. Let's not see how we can insult people by suggesting we give room to him in the Civil Rights Museum. Let's stop literally and metaphorically dragging him out of the ground to fight about him.
It seems the kindest thing we can do all around. Let him rest in peace.