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Unlikely advocate speaks out for Forrest

The Sons of Confederate Veterans invited H. K. Edgerton, a black spokesman on
Confederate heritage, to speak on issues surrounding Forrest Hall last Sunday
in front of the Confederate memorial in Murfreesboro’s square.

"We wanted to show that there is more than one side to the picture, more
than one voice to be heard in this," said Wayne Wilson, Commander of Camp
33, the Murfreesboro chapter of the SCV.

The invite was in response to a swell of opposition developed against the passage
of a Student Government Association resolution to remove the name of Confederate
General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s name from the campus ROTC Building.

The removal of Forrest’s name is a continuation of "Southern cultural
genocide" that started after the Civil War, said Edgerton, president of
the Southern Heritage 411. The Students Against Forrest Hall have failed to
adequately understand Southern history and the role that Nathan Bedford Forrest
played in the lives of Southern blacks, he said.

"I was truly amazed at the lack of knowledge that most of the folks have
about Nathan Bedford Forrest," Edgerton said. "What they simply do
is just holler slavery and say all the black folks in south native America all
hate this flag."

Forrest’s membership in the Ku Klux Klan and his career in slave trading are
two of the main grievances SAFH has cited in their argument to remove his name
from the building.

Edgerton, however, said that the earlier incarnation of the KKK played a pivotal
role in reestablishing and constructing the South, as well as helping black

"If it hadn’t been for the Ku Klux Klan a lot of those families wouldn’t
be here today," he said.

Edgerton listed several names of black soldiers who fought beside Forrest during
the Civil War and made counter comparisons of oppression made by the Union in
which former slaves where forced to fight at gunpoint.

"This young man who said some of these things about Nathan Bedford Forrest,
so very quickly pointed out that General Forrest was into slave trade,"
Edgerton said. "I want to say this unequivocally, there are a lot of black
folks around here in Tennessee whose families would not be alive today if it
had not been for general Nathan Bedford Forrest’s slave trade."

Edgerton even commented on how many Southern blacks believe that Forrest was the
first Civil Rights leader.

"For me, as a black man, knowing full well, and understanding, General
Nathan Bedford Forrest was considered the first Civil Rights leader among black
folks, not only among Tennessee but across the South America," Edgerton

Edgerton’s remarks point to a speech made by Forrest during a political rally
in 1875. According to a flyer passed out by the SCV, Forrest said to a racially-mixed
crowd, "I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people.
I want to come nearer to us. … We may differ in color, but not in sentiment."

Wilson pointed to this speech as proof that, though Forrest was a racist by
21st century standards, he was a man "who can learn."

Edgerton attacked the SAFH for using race and speaking on behalf of all blacks.

"Well, let me tell you something … I walked 1,606.1 miles across South
native America all the way to Texas carrying this flag, and all across this
South native America people who looked just like me said one thing: ‘Boy we
so glad that Johnny finally come marching home," Edgerton said. "We
earned a place of honor and dignity under that flag."

Edgerton continued by challenging students at MTSU to look deeper into black
Southern history.

"Tell them some real history, talk about the law act, talk about the Buster
Act, talk about the compromise of 1850," Edgerton said. "Tell these
babies the real truth. If these babies knew the real truth about what happen
round here they’d kiss the feet of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s grave right now."

At the end of his speech, Edgerton remarked on the Martin Luther King Jr. response
to the Confederate Flag. He said that Luther had once remarked to "leave
it alone, let’s do something about the things we can do something about."

"I don’t know any southern blacks who consider Forrest to be the first
Civil Rights leader," said Amber Perkins, senior sociology major and a
spokesperson for SAFH. "I would have to see what they are talking about
to have an opinion about it and the concept and everything."

In response to Edgerton’s claims, Perkins said that this is not a black issue
– the KKK terrorized black, whites and Jews.

"We are going to look at it from our heritage, and say that Nathan Bedford
Forrest was obviously against our ancestors …He fought to [keep them]

© 2006 MTSU Sidelines

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