Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Letter from the Editor

On parks, slavery, and the KKK



I was heartened to learn that last week the state of Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which bans slavery. Actually, Mississippi voted to ratify the amendment in 1995 but neglected to turn in the paperwork to the Office of the Federal Register. So, to be fair, Mississippi has unofficially been against slavery for almost 18 years!

The decision wasn't unanimous, since some legislators chose not to vote, but at least there were no "nays." Good on ya, Mississippi. Sure, you were the last state to ratify the 1864 amendment against human slavery, but I think that shows admirable restraint. No use in rushing into anything.

Snark aside, the Civil War has been much with us in recent weeks. It began with the great Forrest Park sign kerfuffle. As Jackson Baker reports (Politics, p. 11), a state of what Mayor Wharton called "détente" had existed for a number of years between the city and the Nathan Bedford Forrest devotees, a sort of unspoken "don't rock the boat" stasis.

The boat got rocked when the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans erected a large new sign for the park. The city claimed the SCV hadn't gone through the proper channels to get the sign approved and subsequently removed it. Outraged, the SCV's Lee Millar upped the ante. He went to Nashville and got a Confederate-friendly legislator to initiate a bill that would have banned the renaming of any historical parks.

Before that bill could gain traction, the city council quickly moved to rename Forrest Park, and for good measure, Confederate Park and Jefferson Davis Park. Take that, SCV! So much for "détente." A new civil war has seemingly erupted, this time between Nashville's "Confederate legislators," as city attorney Allan Wade called them, and the Republic of Memphis.

The SCV then took out an ad in The Commercial Appeal that asked for donations to "Citizens to Save Our Parks." (For the record, there is no such nonprofit organization listed with Tennessee's secretary of state as of this writing, February 19th.) But official non-profit or not, another shot was fired.

All this noise attracted the usual sheetheads. The Ku Klux Klan filed for a permit to stand around in pointy-headed costumes in Memphis in late March. They will be here to demonstrate that their cause is all about "heritage, not hate." But here's the thing: If your heritage involves fighting to preserve slavery, a lot of people are going to hate it.

Even Mississippi.

Bruce VanWyngarden

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