The city council has voted to change the name of a park once named after a Confederate soldier and is taking action to rename others.
Forrest Park in Memphis was named for Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. It is a proud symbol of the past for those who see him as a Civil War hero. But for others, especially African-Americans, it is a reminder of the racism that plagued the lives of Blacks in the South during slavery.
The Memphis city council urgently voted Tuesday to change the name of Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park, as well as two others after Nashville lawmakers introduced the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2013 that would intervene the changes, according to The Commercial Appeal.
"We are becoming a city that is inclusive and respectful," said Memphis Councilman Lee Harris in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday. "Those names were dividing rather than uniting."
The honoring of Confederate heroes and emblems, such as the flying of the Confederate flag, has been a divisive issue in the Southern United States, with proponents saying they celebrate regional history, while opponents say they symbolize racism.
The name changes took effect immediately after a council vote Tuesday night.
Harris said the measure, which passed 9-0, was intended to head off a proposed law in the Tennessee state legislature that would keep cities from changing the names of parks or other monuments named after military figures and events, including those from the Civil War. Harris, who is African-American, was joined by six other African-American council members and two white council members.
The city of Memphis is 63 percent African-American, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)