History of Confederate monuments locally and nationally - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

History of Confederate monuments locally and nationally

Nathan Bedford Forrest statue (Source: WMC Action News 5) Nathan Bedford Forrest statue (Source: WMC Action News 5)
Jefferson Davis statue (Source: WMC Action News 5) Jefferson Davis statue (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

Confederate monuments (and what they stand for) have become the topic of conversation throughout the United States for years, but the discussions intensified with the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia following a white nationalist rally in protest of the town's request to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Many supporters of Confederate monuments say they are part of the south's history and culture -- a way to show respect to the men who fought and died in what some see as a valiant, but doomed, effort to protect the genteel southern way of life.

Others see those monuments as a sign of white superiority.

Many of the monuments went up around 1890 through the 1900s. Here's what New World Encyclopedia wrote about the political and racial climate in southern states at that time:

"After the Civil War, the South was largely devastated in terms of its population, infrastructure, and economy. The republic also found itself under reconstruction, with military troops in direct political control of the South. White southerners who had actively supported the Confederacy lost many of the basic rights of citizenship (such as voting). With passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (outlawing slavery), the Fourteenth Amendment (granting full U.S. citizenship to African-Americans), and the Fifteenth Amendment (extending the right to vote to African-American males), blacks began to enjoy more rights than they ever had in the South. By the 1890s, though, a political backlash against these rights had developed in the South. Organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan—a clandestine organization sworn to perpetuate white supremacy—used
lynchings and other forms of violence and intimidation to keep African Americans from exercising their political rights, while Jim Crow laws were created to legally do the same thing. It would not be until the late 1960s that these phenomena would be undermined by the American Civil Rights Movement."

Another site, History.com, wrote this about Confederate monuments that were created and installed during those turbulent times:

"Most of these monuments did not go up immediately after the war's end in 1865. During that time, commemorative markers of the Civil War tended to be memorials that mourned soldiers who had died,' says Mark Elliott, a history professor at University of North Carolina, Greensboro.  'The vast majority of them were built between the 1890s and 1950s, which matches up exactly with the era of Jim Crow segregation,' he said. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center's research, the biggest spike was between 1900 and the 1920s. By then, the construction of new Confederate monuments had begun to taper off, but the backlash to the Civil Rights Movement was spreading. Confederate symbols in other ways: In 1956, Georgia redesigned its state flag to include the Confederate battle flag; and in 1962, South Carolina placed the flag atop its capitol building. In its report last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center said that the country's more than 700 monuments are part of roughly 1,500 symbols of the Confederacy in public spaces."

In 1899, the park at South Manassas Street and Union Avenue was renamed Bedford Forrest Park in honor of Memphis native and Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. 

In 1904, his remains were moved from Elmwood Cemetery--where he requested to be buried with his wife and soldiers--and moved to what is now known as Health Sciences Park. In 1905, the equestrian statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest was installed over his grave.

The statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was installed in what was then Confederate Park in 1964. That downtown park is now named Memphis Park.

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