Taylor Swift: People Who ‘Perpetuated Hideous Patterns of Racism’ Don’t Deserve Statues


LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 01: Taylor Swift attends the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 01, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

On Friday, singer Taylor Swift posted a series of tweets to her nearly 90 million followers, advocating for the state of Tennessee to stop preserving two statues of “racist historical figures who did evil things,” Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and newspaper editor Edward Carmack.

“As a Tennessean,” tweeted Swift, “it makes me sick that there are monuments standing in our state that celebrate racist historical figures who did evil things,” calling Carmack and Forrest “DESPICABLE figures in our state history.”

Some background on the two men: Forrest had been a general in the Confederate Army, perhaps most notably during the Fort Pillow Massacre, where troops under his command killed Union troops who had surrendered, many of them black, along with white Tennesseans who had been fighting for the Union.

Contemporaneous reports described numerous atrocities, including shooting wounded soldiers, shooting men in the back who were fleeing, burning men alive, and even crucifixions. The horrors at Fort Pillow led to the Northern public viewing Forrest as a war criminal, and gave new resolve to the Union to win the war.

The KKK was founded in Tennessee, and Forrest was an early member, elected as their first Grand Wizard based on his command experience for the Confederacy during the war. Under his leadership, the Klan became increasingly violent and used terrorism tactics to achieve political ends, including murdering blacks to suppress Republican voter turnout.

Carmack was a newspaperman who represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1901 to 1907. He frequently used the platform provided by his papers to post racist diatribes, defend Jim Crow laws, and attempt to stir up animosity against his rivals, including encouraging an attack on the offices of Ida B. Wells, a black woman who ran another paper and was an outspoken opponent of lynchings. Her offices were burned to the ground, but Wells was fortunately out of town at the time. She moved to Chicago soon after, was a suffragist, and was part of the original organizing efforts of the NAACP.

Carmack, on the other hand, in 1908 got in a shooting match with another rival newspaperman, Duncan Brown Cooper. Carmack missed his target and wounded his son, Robin Cooper, who returned fire and killed Carmack. Several years later, the Tennessee Legislature memorialized Carmack, dedicating a bronze statue of him and placing it in a prominent place on the state capitol grounds.

That very same statue of Carmack was torn down by George Floyd protesters late last month. Forrest has a number of monuments around the South, especially in Tennessee, including a garish 25-foot-tall multicolored metal sculpture that depicts him on horseback.

Swift tweeted that replacing Carmack’s statue “is a waste of state funds and a waste of an opportunity to do the right thing.”

“Taking down statues isn’t going to fix centuries of systemic oppression, violence and hatred that black people have had to endure,” she continued, “but it might bring us one small step closer to making ALL Tennesseans and visitors to our state feel safe – not just the white ones.”

“Villains don’t deserve statues,” tweeted Swift, requesting that the state government “please consider the implications of how hurtful it would be to continue fighting for these monuments…you can’t change history, but you can change this.”

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