Don’t put Ida B. Wells’ name in that park mess

theuniversityofsixfour@hotmail.com | 1/24/2013, 4:05 p.m.

The other day I was caught mid-channel flipping as I came across a direct descendant of Mr. Forrest speaking of how he was upset that someone had moved the statue's marker from the park. Still, nothing registered. I flipped on.

Later, I learned that City Councilman Myron Lowery had proposed that we place a marker of Ida B. Wells in this same park to calm tensions related to the presence of the Forrest statue. And there my mind went, registering an alert that sounded like a large commercial vehicle when it's in reverse – beep, beep, beep.

Yeah, let's go back because I knew of Ida. B. Wells; a terror with her pencil for racial injustice to say the least. So after much research I found out that – among other titles – Nathan Bedford Forrest was The Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Now I am sure that Mr. Lowery has to be privy to the background of both parties mentioned. How else could he make the suggestion?

Of course, the proposal makes no sense. That bothers me, as it seems to me that many of our elected officials – for the most part – don't directly reflect how we really are.

Think about it. Divorce, removing membership from a church, a new car, shady family members, lazy lawn care specialist, beauticians that talk too much, barbers that cut too slow, or deacons that pray too long – Memphians will remove or replace you.

So why is right, good or not entertaining wrong so hard for our leaders to do once they get behind the desk. I'm not even thinking about why the marker was moved, who cares? I'm looking at the root of the issue and that is this: What public officials allowed the park and statue to exist in the first place. It is a beaming symbol of hate. Yet it passed the sniff test amongst "city leaders."

Let's peep in on Mr. Forrest's life on April 12, 1864. Here's what digging unearthed:

General Forrest led his Confederate forces in the attack and capture of Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tenn. Over 300 African American Union Troops were killed in the battle. A controversy arose about whether Forrest conducted or condoned a massacre of African Americans who had surrendered there. Many Southern Newspapers (Remember we're talking 1864 Southern newspapers) stated that, "General Forrest BEGGED them to surrender but they did not."

Other sources say those statements were contradicted by Union survivors. In one instance, a contraction is attributed to a Confederate soldier named Achilles Clark, a soldier with the 20th Tennessee cavalry. In a letter to his sister after the battle, Clark reportedly wrote this:

"The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded, negroes would run up to our men, fall on their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but were ordered back to their feet and then shot down. I and others tried to stop the butchery and at one time had partially succeeded but General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick from all of the blood and the firing ceased."