Two separate marches will converge in downtown Hattiesburg on Saturday afternoon as demonstrators seek the removal of a Confederate statue that is located outside the Forrest County Circuit Court building.
The statue was donated to the county by the Nathan Bedford Forrest chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in October 1910. It functions as a memorial for Confederate war dead and as an honorarium for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate army general who lived from 1821-1877.
Forrest, who was born in Chapel Hill, Tennessee, is known for the massacre of more than 300 black Union soldiers following the Battle of Fort Pillow in April 1864. He is also known for serving as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan from 1867-1869.
There are numerous other memorials to Forrest throughout the southern United States, many in the form of statues and other historical markers. Forrest County, upon its creation by the Mississippi Legislature in 1908, was named in his memory, and Forrest City, Arkansas, is also named for him.
In Nashville, Tennessee, a 25-foot-tall statue of Forrest riding his horse while flanked by Confederate battle flags has attracted controversy, and there are ongoing efforts to remove the statue. A legislative effort to remove it was voted down on Tuesday.
Another statue of Forrest in his home state of Tennessee – located near his burial place in a Memphis park – was removed in December 2017 after a prolonged legal battle between the city and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
The park was also renamed from Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park, and the graves of Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann, will soon be removed from the park and relocated to their original gravesites in the city’s Elmwood Cemetery.
The future of the Hattiesburg statue rests with the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, and supervisors are expected to discuss the issue during their Monday meeting. A number of demonstrators and community leaders are expected to be at the meeting.
Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker has said “it is not entirely appropriate to have the Confederate statue” in its current location. The mayor has also pointed out that the city does not own the statue and has no legal authority to remove it.
The marches will begin around 3 p.m. along the 300 block of Mobile Street and at Vernon Dahmer Park. Demonstrators are expected to merge together in the 600 block of Main Street at approximately 4 p.m. for a program.