Sometimes the GOP effort to rewrite history is successful — for instance, the Evangelical Christian campaign that turned Protestant Christians against abortion and birth control in under one generation.
Other times, it falls flat on its face. This is one of those times.
Tennessee Republican Rep. Andy Holt is considering legislation that would mark an annual holiday honoring “one of the South’s first civil rights leaders.” So who is this individual? It’s not Ralph Abernathy. It’s not Ella Baker, Medgar Evers, Golden Frinks, or Lola Hendricks.
No, the man Representative Holt considers “one of the South’s first civil rights leaders” is Nathan Bedford Forrest, a man who, in addition to naming Forrest Gump, was the first Grand Wizard of the newly formed Ku Klux Klan in the 1860s.
Andy Holt’s historical revisionism
Holt made his case in an op-ed written for the Jackson Sun on Thursday, writing, “Through Christ, we are called to believe in and celebrate redemption. When we recognize the life of Gen. Forrest, we are doing just that — celebrating the life of a man, redeemed through Christ, that fought for the rights of black West Tennesseans.”
One thing you won’t find in Holt’s essay is the financial setback that Forrest suffered following abolition, since Forrest was a slave trader. Also missing is any reference to his actions at Fort Pillow and the massacre of African-Americans there.
Perhaps Forrest did change later in life; Holt’s not wrong to say that Forrest spoke to the Independent Order of Pole Bearers. But that does not, under any circumstances, make him deserving a holiday for being the “civil rights leader” he wasn’t. Especially when there are so many other civil rights leaders who are more deserving than Forrest that aren’t even recognized.
The timing of this op-ed isn’t accidental, however. There’s discussion in the Tennessee legislature what to do with a bust of the Confederate General; the Tennessee State Capitol Commission appointed a subcommittee to discuss what to do with the statue after calls from all quarters came to remove it.
Resident Marie Campbell told the Tennessean that despite Holt’s attempts to whitewash Forrest’s history, he ‘s still viewed as a symbol for racism and hate:
The fact remains that he has become this legendary figure for people today who are white supremacists and racist, and are continuing to support both violence against black people and policies that result in violence against black people.
That Holt considers him a civil rights leader tells you everything you need to know about the base of the modern GOP.
Feature image via Facebook