Former Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate soldier Nathan Bedford Forrest has been memorialized with a statue in the Tennessee Capitol building since 1978. A few decades later, local legislators are finally realizing a Grand Wizard should probably not be honored. Now, they’re looking to replace it with a new statue, and Dolly Parton is a possible option.
It’s a big decision to make — one that should be thought over carefully, unlike the first time they chose a statue — as the local figure will be cemented into history in the Capitol building. GOP state Rep. Jeremy Faison has made some good points about the challenge this presents, reports The Tennessean. As one of the legislators looking to have the Forrest bust replaced, he said he could “think of 100 other people deserving of that post” before suggesting Parton as she’s a country music legend and beloved national treasure.
“If we want to preserve history, then let’s tell it the right way. Right now there are eight alcoves [in the Capitol]. Seven are filled with white men,” said Rep. Faison “How about getting a lady in there? My daughter is 16, and I would love for her to come into the Capitol and see a lady up there. What’s wrong with Anne Dallas Dudley getting in that alcove? What’s wrong with someone like Dolly Parton being put in that alcove?”
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Faison is right: women should be represented in the Capitol. When it comes to halting praise of a racist KKK leader, though, it seems obvious that maybe they should honor someone who’s not white, too. Later on in the article, Faison suggested building a monument honoring the enslaved people who built the Capitol building. Once the bust of Forrest is removed, Faison hopes it’s put in a museum to preserve history and educate people about the Fort Pillow massacre.
Parton herself has yet to comment on the matter, though she has been on the receiving end of KKK hate mail recently. Her theme park, Dollywood, hosts an unofficial “gay day” each year, and a slew of homophobic people get offended by the event. “When it first started, there were people giving us threats. I still get threats,” Parton told Nightline last year. “But like I said, I’m in business. I just don’t feel like I have to explain myself. I love everybody.”