Both public officials suggest enlarging the focus to include other sites and memorials.


Even as Memphis mayor Willie Herenton seemed ready to remove from the table both his proposal concerning Forrest Park and the whole issue of downtown parks, two other public figures have come forward with ideas of their own.

In an interview this week, Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton called for amending the sites of three controversial downtown parks – Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Confederate – so as to provide “full disclosure”of the historical facts.

”In other words, you might have an elaborate plaque nearby the statue of General Forrest explaining all his wartime exploits and why it is he was venerated and thought a military genius, but also nearby you should have another plaque or memorial pointing out the criticism he’s received and the actual facts concerning it – the slave-owning, the possibility of a massacre, the Klan allegations, all of that.”

Wharton said it would be a good idea also to add in each of the Confederate-related parks plaques or prominent signs indicating other historical and tourist sites – for example, the National Civil Rights Museum – where visitors could acquaint themselves with another side of the historical context.

And city council member Carol Chumney, in an email response to the issue, also advanced some thoughts – some of them critical of Herenton.

Said Chumney: “First, I would like to know why Mayor Herenton proposed a resolution to lease the Forrest park to UT , with provisions that it could not be used for another purpose without his approval, and then withdrew the proposal with the added language that the Council would also have to approve any alternative use of the park? If the lease of the park is a good deal for the citizens of Memphis as originally proposed by the Mayor, then why isn’t it still a good deal for the citizens of Memphis under the democratic common-sense principles of a balance of powers by adding a Council review? Was there another agenda here all along to develop the park? Even so, this issue is bigger than who sits in any elected position….

And the outspoken councilwoman made her own proposal – one somewhat consistent with Wharton’s: “What has been left out of the debate altogether is a solid review and discussion on how to best market our image and history to attract tourists, bring jobs, and tell the full story of our history from divergent viewpoints. This could include broadening the presentation in the parks, identifying and restoring historical properties, and/or adding exhibits to the National Civil Rights Museum, Wonders, the Pink Palace, or other venues that will share the lessons we can all learn from the former days. The Convention & Visitors Bureau (which to my knowledge has been silent in this debate) can be charged with reviewing and making recommendations, along with the input of other tourism experts and community leaders. I am told that this is a billion dollar industry in some states.”

Such an approach, said Chumney might result in the achievement of “common ground, and a win-win for our community.”

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