Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Forrest Was Civil Rights Advocate

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Forrest Was Civil Rights Advocate

Article excerpt

Byline: Bodie Catlin

Have you ever heard gossip about someone that was so far from the truth, that you were amazed these statements had ever been said?

Do you step forward to correct the historic record, or do you retreat and decide not to defend your friend with what you know as truth?

This is the question historians find themselves faced with as the reputation of a man, Nathan Bedford Forrest, is besmirched by those with an agenda not for truth, but to rewrite history and change the name of Forrest High School.

Forrest (1821-1877) was a famous Southern military leader, a brilliant strategist and a gentleman who made his mark in what Southerners call the War of Northern Aggression.

To paint every general on the losing side as a racist simply because you don't like the South is a travesty that the facts of history will knock down time and time again.

Yes, Forrest was a great general in an unpopular war, but when the war ended, Forrest accepted the outcome and then sought reconciliation with those around him.

He worked diligently to rebuild the New South and earnestly to generate employment for black Southerners.

His leadership and character did not fade because the South had been defeated. Instead he used who he was, accepted the outcome, and used his fame and talents for others' good.

At an early convention of the Pole-Bearers, whose beginnings prefaced the NAACP, it was Forrest who was invited to speak. History records no disrespect at the meeting; instead both the Pole-Bearers and Forrest behaved with mutual respect and decorum. He was the guest speaker, and historically the first white invited to be the keynote speaker.

Forrest was asked because the group was said to have wanted to extend union and peace to others, but what happened in further actions was even more important.

The event began with a young black woman, the daughter of a leader of the Pole-Bearers, offering him a small bouquet of flowers signifying the peace intended.

Forrest received the flowers and then spoke from his heart to the gathering. His actions and recorded words testify that this gentleman was in truth a civil rights advocate, a believer in the rights of all people.

He said, "I came here with jeers of some white people who think what I am doing is wrong. …

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