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Nathan Bedford Forrest monument causes controversy

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The renovation of a monument to Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest continues in Selma, despite the efforts of those who want it stopped.   

The echoes of history ring loudly in Selma, especially in Live Oak Cemetery.  But something else also echoes…the sounds of construction.

The organization Friends of Forrest is not waiting for someone to return the stolen bust of their hero.  They've ordered a new one and are building a bigger and better monument to the general – while sprucing up the larger Confederate Memorial Circle.

Nathan Bedford Forrest's legacy engenders fierce debate.  Historians say he was a brilliant tactician whose methods were studied long after the Civil War. 

"I recommend this man to model his life after," said Todd Kiscaden, with Friends of Forrest.  "He always led from the front.  He did what he said he was going to do.  He took care of his people, and his people included both races." 

But others point to Forrest's role as a slave trader before the Civil War, and the accounts of the battle of Fort Pillow in Tennessee, where more than 100 Black Union troops were killed.  He also served as the first Grand Wizard of the original Ku Klux Klan.

"Here's a man who killed African-Americans who had surrendered, who were not a threat to anybody, (who)formed the Ku Klux Klan," said Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, who is among the people pushing to stop the construction.  And yet we are talking about a monument to him. 

Sanders said the Council has the power to stop the construction, because the cemetery is owned by the city.  But Selma City Council President Cecil Williamson told WSFA 12 News, the land on which the Forrest monument sits is actually controlled by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and has been since the 1870s.  He doesn't think the city should be involved at all.

The work on the project is scheduled to be completed in the fall.

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