As reenactors enter the fairgrounds for the 150th celebration of the Battle of Selma, they are welcomed by a giant booth filled with collectables, books, brochures, and other readings. At first glance, it looks like the registration table—but it’s not.
As visitors study the booth’s tables they will notice book titles including “The White Identity, the Social Conscious in the 21st Century,” and “The Authentic History of the Ku Klux Klan.” The literature on the table sets the tone for the organization.
The Friends of Forrest, an organization that celebrates a notorious Civil War general, is trying to raise $54,000 for a replacement bust of General Nathan Bedford Forrest that will be placed in Selma’s Live Oak Cemetery. Forrest was a Lieutenant general in the Confederate Calvary and his military career was focused in the mid-South where he led the Confederate troops in the Battle of Selma; the Union won that battle.
After the war he was well-known in the community and became a Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard.
The original bust was placed at the Joseph T. Smitherman Building Museum in Selma. Later, it was moved to the Confederate Memorial Circle in the local Live Oak Cemetery.
The monument remained in place for almost 12 years until this March when someone stole the life-size bronze bust. The Friends of Forrest offered a reward of $20,000 and recently upped it to $40,000 for information as to who committed the crime. The bust has not been recovered and the group is raising money to cover the cost of replacing it.
On May 23, Friends of Forrest members will have a celebration in the cemetery and re-dedicate the new bust of General Forrest whose famous battle cry was, “Get ‘em skeered and keep the skeer on ‘em.”
Those working the booth refused to speak on the record, but the organization’s website announces: “We Won!” stating that the group has acquired the deed to Confederate Memorial Circle in the cemetery, where the original bust was placed. The newly created bust of General Forrest is slated to be installed on that same spot on May 23.
“This will be a HUGE MONUMENTAL HISTORICAL event—the most paramount Confederate accomplishment throughout the South in the recent times because we beat the enemy in their own territory, the Civil Rights hotpot of the world!” the re-dedication announcement read.
Meanwhile a local activist group gathered at the Edmund Pettus Bridge to protest the lack of black voices in the remembrance of the Battle of Selma, also protesting the Friends of Forrest’s efforts to commemorate the controversial general.
“Forty-thousand lost their lives, millions of lives were saved from the mental and physical destruction of slavery that we are suffering to this very day,” said protest organizer Faya Toure.
“We gather on this sacred bridge, on this sacred day, to remember the warriors who fought and died to end the most dehumanizing slavery in mankind,” Toure said. “Two-hundred thousand black men joined the Union Army to fight for their liberation in the bloodiest war in American History.”
As the Selma community continues to commemorate its important history it continues to wrangle with how to reenact those pivotal moments continue.
By Kelsey Staggers