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Memphis Sells Parks in Legal Loophole to Get Confederate Statues Removed
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Bedford Forrest

Summary: Memphis, Tennessee decided to sell two city parks that held Confederate statues as the last option of getting the statues removed without a legal battle.

A city in Tennessee was able to find a legal way to remove Confederate statues. Memphis took down statutes from two public parks, the Health Sciences Park and Fourth Bluff Park, by selling the space to a nonprofit organization.

  
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By selling the space where the Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest statues were located, Memphis mayor Jim Strickland explained, the city was able to avoid a legal battle over their removal. Strickland said, “The statutes no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum. The Forrest statute was placed in 1904, as Jim Crow segregation laws were enacted. The Davis statute was placed in 1964, as the Civil Rights Movement changed our country.”

The Memphis city council voted unanimously two years ago to have the statues removed but the Tennessee Historical Commission denied their request. Some argue that they went behind the backs of the commission or tricked them but Strickland defends the move. “It’s important to remember what I’ve said all along: I was committed to remove the statues in a lawful way. From the beginning, we have followed state law – and tonight’s action is no different.”

The city had filed a petition for a judicial review just weeks ago over the historical commission’s rejection of their request to at least remove the Forrest statue for its “long and controversial history in Memphis.” Forrest was a slave trader, Confederate general and KKK leader, who also played a large part in the city’s growth during the time of the Civil War. His remains are still buried under the monument.

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Facing rejection from the commission, the city council opted to see the parks. Strickland went ahead with their decision to sell the parks to nonprofit Greenspace Inc. As soon as the papers were signed, the statues came down with cheers from the crowd. Strickland added, “This is an important moment in the life of our city. People from all walks of life came together to make today a reality.”

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen applauds the city for “finding a way to legally remove statues from an era that is not representative of Memphis today & have remained an affront to most of the citizens of Memphis.”



House Republicans want an investigation into the city’s sale of the parks. The two parks were sold for $1,000 each in order to get around the laws. Memphis Greenspace, headed by a county commissioner, was able to buy the parks with anonymous donations. The Sons of Confederate Veterans in Memphis contend that the monuments are not a representation of white supremacy but do represent an important part of history so taking them down would be a mistake. “It is a deliberate attempt to avoid the state law and the city is breaking the law,” they stated.

Strickland announced that the statues will be kept in an undisclosed location, just as the city prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr on April 4.

Do you think the removal of the Confederate statues is appropriate? Should they be placed in a museum where people can appropriately learn about the history of them or be tossed? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about the issues surrounding Confederate statues, read these articles:

Photo: cbsnews.com



 

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