Black Tennessee Lawmakers 'Tricked' Into Honoring Ku Klux Klan Founder
The Black Caucus in the Tennessee House of Representatives were tricked into passing a resolution honoring an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
According to a report from the Nashville Patch, earlier this year, Rep. Mike Sparks, a Republican from Smyrna, Tennessee, filed a resolution that honored Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader, confederate general (who participated in the Fort Pillow Massacre, which resulted in the deaths of 300 black Union soldiers after they surrendered) and an early leader of the KKK, “to recognize the importance of the rich and vast history of the State of Tennessee.”
The bill was ultimately “deferred to summer study,” meaning it was killed. However, Sparks ended up introducing another bill that honored Louisiana pastor and Forrest biographer Shane Kastle; a high school cheerleading team and a high school salutatorian. But the similarity between the first and second bills? They both mirrored one another in terms of the language, with both acknowledging Forrest’s slave-trading and Klan-leading.
Although the resolution received a 94-0 vote, some of the members of the House have argued that Sparks fooled them — specifically the black members of the House.
“He pulled a fast one,” Rep. Johnny Shaw (D-Bolivar), told the Associated Press. “I don’t think I owe any recognition to Mr. Forrest at all. If I could take my vote back, I would.”
During a Thursday floor session with the House, Sparks apologized to the Black Caucus saying there was “no offense intended” by the resolution. Still, the caucus, along with a number of white Democrats, chastised Sparks for the bill.
“It’s sickening, it’s conniving, it’s underhanded, it’s shady,” Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) said. “This is a national embarrassment.”
Since House Speaker Beth Harwell already signed the resolution (it is not known if she read it before doing so), it is now impossible for one of the 94 members of the House who voted for the bill to request its reconsideration.