Skip to main content

Memphis Removes Confederate Statues

Memphis Removes Confederate Statues Promo Image

Two Confederate statues in a park in Memphis, Tennessee, were removed on Dec. 20 after a city council vote.

The statues of former Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also an early member of the Ku Klux Klan, and Confederate president Jefferson Davis were lifted from their positions by a crane, The New York Times reports.

"History is being made in Memphis tonight," Mayor Jim Strickland said at a press conference.

Strickland explained that the city council had been looking at ways to legally move the statues for more than a year. In October, the Tennessee Historical Commission refused to grant the city a waiver from a law prohibiting the removal of historical statues from public land.

The city got around this by selling the two parks to a local non-profit, meaning the statues were being moved from private land.

Image placeholder title

However, the move provoked criticism in the Tennessee House from Republicans, who called for an investigation.

"We are governed by the rule of law here in Tennessee and these actions are a clear infringement of this principle and set a dangerous precedence for our state," a statement from House Majority Leader Glen Casada and House Republican caucus chairman Ryan Williams argued, according to NPR.

Strickland noted that the violent white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August were a "sea change" and encouraged efforts to relocate the statutes.

"But this day, this day should be more about where we go from here," added Strickland, the Times notes. "I want to say this loud and clear: though some of our city's past is painful, we are all in charge of our city's future."

Image placeholder title

The Bedford statue was removed at 9:01 p.m., which was seen as a reference to the city's area code: 901.

"The people united will never be defeated," a crowd chanted as the statue was taken away, according to Mother Jones.

Almost two hours later, at 10:45 p.m., authorities removed the Jefferson Davis statue as onlookers sung, "Hit the road, Jack."

Tami Sawyer is a leading member of the Take 'Em Down 901 campaign group which called for the statues' removal.

"Just to finally get to this moment is overwhelming," she said, the Times reports.

"This is a victory for grassroots movements in the city," she added, according to NPR. "This happened because people mandated it and wanted it."

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen pointed out this was the right time to move the statues, which he said are "not representative of Memphis today."

"As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, it's important that these relics of the Confederacy and defenders of slavery don't continue to be displayed in prominent places in our city," added Cohen.

Sources: The New York Times, Mother Jones, NPR / Featured Image: Thomas R. Macknitzki/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Al Jespersen/Wikimedia Commons, Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

Popular Video