On April 12, 2011, the United States will commemorate one of the most important historical feats of American history that shaped this country on the basis of economics, race, class, and civil rights. The Civil War was considered the most expensive and bloodiest wars that happened on American soil to the tune of close to 620,000 slave, civilian, and soldier casualties. According to Legendsofamerican.com, a history based website outlining American history events states: “more than three million men fought in the Civil War about 900,000 for the Confederacy and 2.1 million for the Union.” For four years (1861-1865) the states were split between the Union and Confederate states. The eleven southern states declared their secession from the Union due to President Lincoln’s passage of The Emancipation Proclamation in freeing and abolishing slavery. In the north, the industrial revolution was taking shape and businessman and owners of factories were needing employees as well as a diverse work force. These industrialists felt if the slaves were freed, as well as educated, then many would leave the south and migrate north, which ended up happening much later during a period called The Great Migration. This was also a time when abolitionists and many religious groups like Catholics and Quakers began questioning and speaking out on south’s brutal slave trade and sharecropping industry.
On April 8th, 1861, three months after Lincoln was sworn in as the President, the Confederate States of America had elected Jefferson Davis as their president and Alexander Stephens as their vice-president. The Confederates adopted the Bars and Stars as their flag and declared Montgomery, Alabama the capital. The south declared war on the north believing that slavery and integration would destroy their industry.
“Though African Americans constituted less than one percent of the northern population, by the war’s end made up ten percent of the Union Army. A total of 180,000 black men, more than 85% of those eligible, enlisted. By the end of the Confederate surrender 1865, there were more African-Americans in the Union army than there were soldiers in the Confederate army.”
One of the most important players of the Confederate Army and one of the architects and Grand Wizard’s of the Ku Klux Klan is General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Born July 13th, 1821, Forrest was born first of 12 siblings in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. A planter and plantation owner by trade, he was also an astute real estate developer as well as slave trader making him one of Memphis, Tennessee’s richest men before the war.
While General for the Confederate Army, Forrest’s behavior and vile nature toward blacks were both evil and outright illegal. He “had 30 horses shot from under him and personally killed 31 men in hand-to-hand combat.” He was also responsible for the massacre of 300 black Union army and white Southern Unionist prisoners to be killed during the Battle of Fort Pillow. After the Confederate army surrendered to the Union, Forest moved back to Memphis where he took a major financial blow because of his slave trading business folding due to The Emancipation Proclamation. He took a job as the president of the Marion & Memphis Railroad but due to poor economic times he ran a prison work farm. This was also the same time he became the Grand Wizard for the Ku Klux Klan.
Needless to say, Forrest died of diabetes as well as destitute and broke.
On the heels of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, the Mississippi members of the Sons of Confederate want to have a special license plate of Nathan Bedford Forrest as one of the five new designs. Back in 2002 the state approved having a specialty plate commemorating the Civil War. This year’s plate is of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate army.
Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP in Mississippi states: “he(Forrest) should be viewed in the same light that we view Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.” He adds: “the state of Mississippi should deny any vanity tags which would highlight racial hatred in this state.”
In the sad state of racial and cultural amnesia that both some white and black folks deal with here in America, I wonder did anyone learn anything from history lessons while in school? Why hasn’t this generation dealt with the truth of the Confederate’s past? Why the Confederate’s past have no place in the future? Slavery and the Civil War continues to divide and conquer ignorance and miseducation in our current race relations. The last I checked, the Civil War was a war based strictly on economics. Yet, the Sons of Confederate want to bring on another 150 years of their racist and segregationist mind state that Mississippi is still trying to live down.
Having worked and lived as a journalist for a year in Jackson, Mississippi, this story leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. One, there are many good black and white folks that I encountered while living there who want to move on from their bitter past. Guys like Greg Stewart, a member of the Sons of Confederate, believes “if Christian redemption means anything and we want redemption, I think he(Forrest) redeemed himself in his own time, in his own words.” Stewart is entitled to his own opinion, as with all the members of the Sons, but ignorance and stupidity reign supreme on this matter. How would whites feel if any state issued a Willie Lynch, Huey P. Newton, or Mumia Abu Jamal license plate? The same way many African-Americans are carrying on about the Forrest plate, the same white folks would be protesting these black revolutionaries I just mentioned. Yet, Forrest was a murder and racist. Hum! Lynch and Newton, although both encouraged blacks self-reliance and protection of oneself, used different tactics to communicate their message, yet some whites hate and despised them.
It’s one thing to study your history and commemorate your past. I’ve always been an advocate of teaching and learning of ones self. But to continue to perpetuate the past, a dark past who taught the country to split apart from the vile nature of slavery and Jim Crow, yet to come back to it, then, that’s sick! These same Sons of Confederate are the ones who support and uplift the ideologies of racist and terrorist behavior. Yes people, the Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist organization that used lynching and bombing of synagogues and homes to keep blacks in control. The real truth of the matter is that Nathan Bedford Forrest would be considered a terrorist and the Sons acknowledging this in 2011 proves that ignorance is bliss! Resorting to elevating Forrest’s legacy via a license plate or the many statues erected in his honor tells me we still have a long way to go on dealing with our history and dealing with race.
The Revolution Will Be Televised,
The Pace Report