PUBLISHED: 20:27 EST, 22 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:09 EST, 22 August 2012
- Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slave trader who tried to bring blacks back under white control after the Civil War
- Monument in Selma, Alabama, was vandalized and his bust stolen in April
- Friends of Forrest group is spending $50,000 to replace to head and restore the memorial
Community leaders in Selma, Alabama, are furious over the repair and renovation of a monument to a Confederate general who was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Kulx Klan.
Opponents say Nathan Bedford Forrest was a brutal racist who was a slave trader before the Civil War. During the war, his troops slaughtered 200 black soldiers after they surrendered during the Battle of Fort Pillow.
The group Friends of Forrest says the general was a self-made man and a brilliant tactician who defended Selma during the Union invasion in 1865.
Stolen: In April, someone swiped the bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The group Friend of Forrest is spending $50,000 to replace it
Controversy: Forrest was a millionaire slave trader who worked to bring blacks back under white control after the war as a leader of the KKK
‘I’d recommend this man for any young people to model their life after,’ Todd Kiscaden, a member of the group, told WSFA.
‘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.’
In April, someone stole the bust of Forrest that was placed at the Confederate memorial in Live Oak Cemetery in Selma.
Friends of Forrest offered a $20,000 reward for its return, but aren’t waiting for it to be found. They’ve invested $50,000 to put a new head on the monument and renovate the memorial.
Opponents say Forrest is no man to be celebrated.
‘Here’s a man who killed African-Americans who had surrendered, who were not a threat to anybody, formed the Ku Klux Klan, and yet we are talking about a monument to him,’ State Sen Hank Sanders, a Democrat from Selma, told WSFA.
‘Role model’: Friends of Forrest member Todd Kiscaden says the general should be revered for his brilliant tactics
Before the Civil War broke out, Forrest was one of the richest men in the South. He owned a cotton plantation in Tennessee and untold numbers of slaves. He became so successful at human trafficking, he opened a slave trading business in Memphis.
During the war, he became known for his brilliant strategic and tactical skills. In 1864, he led 1,600 Confederate soldiers in an attack on Fort Pillow in Tennessee, which was defended by both black and white Union soldiers.
After the soldiers surrendered, Forrest reportedly oversaw the systematic slaughter of some 200 black soldiers, who were singled out for death, while their white comrades were allowed to surrender.
Following the end of the war, Forrest joined the KKK, which was founded by former Confederate soldiers who were attempting to bring freed slaves back under white control.
He served as the first Grand Wizard, the leader of the vigilante group, as it waged a campaign of terror against blacks and white sympathizers — murdering and lynching hundreds and beating hundreds more.
The Selma city government controls the cemetery where Forrest’s memorial sits. However, the city claims that the private group United Daughters of the Confederacy owns the specific plot of land occupied by the Confederate memorial.
Selma City Council President Cecil Williamson says the city is powerless to stop the renovation of the monument and he believes government should stay out of the issue.