Candlelight vigil planned to mark anniversary of Confederate statues’ removal

The statues of Nathan Bedford Forrest (left) and Jefferson Davis were removed from two public parks in Memphis in December 2017.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A candlelight vigil remembering slaves traded by Nathan Bedford Forrest is among activities planned this week to mark the one-year anniversary of the removal of Confederate statues from Memphis public parks.

A bronze statue of the Confederate general and Memphis slave trader was removed from Health Sciences Park, formerly Forrest Park, at 9:01 p.m. Dec. 20, 2017, along with a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a smaller bust of a soldier removed from Fourth Bluff Park downtown.

The controversial move was stymied by the State Historical Commission until city leaders transferred ownership of the parks to nonprofit Memphis Greenspace. The Sons of Confederate Veterans filed suit against the city, demanding possession of the Forrest statue and millions in damages.

The candlelight vigil is set to begin at 4:30 Thursday in Health Sciences Park.  Local high school students along with other community leaders and activists will read the names of slaves traded by Forrest.

At 6 p.m., Memphis Greenspace and other stakeholders will discuss the future of Fourth Bluff and Health Sciences Parks and “explore ways to transform these two important spaces into symbols of collaboration, progress and innovation” at the National Civil Rights Museum.

More activities are planned Friday at the University of Memphis C.C. Humphreys School of Law and the offices of Baker Donelson.

“Memphis Greenspace joined with Memphians to rewrite the history of this great city forever with the removal of three Confederate monuments that stood for years as barriers threatening to stifle our city’s future progress,” the organization said in a news release. “Memphis Greenspace was happy to play a key role on this day along with several other individuals and organizations.”