racial relations

Rep. Van Huss ‘doubles down’ in praise of Confederate battle flag, bashing Black Lives Matter

State Rep. Micah Van Huss has rejected a request to “dialog” with a group that criticized his Facebook posting declaring the Confederate battle flag a “symbol of freedom” and that the Ku Klux Klan and Black Lives Matter are both “racist hate groups.” Instead, reports the Johnson City Press, the Washington County Republican “doubled down” on his previous remarks.

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Councilman calls for special legislative session on Confederate monuments

In a Commercial Appeal op-ed piece, Memphis City Councilman Bill Morrison urges Gov. Bill Haslam to promptly call a special session of the General Assembly to repeal Tennessee Heritage Protection Act of 2016.

That’s the law that requires two-thirds of the 29 members of the Tennessee Historical Commission to approve any changes in monuments to historical figures, no matter where they are or what they stand for. Five members live in Shelby County.

The law.. was co-sponsored by some of our own, including state Sen. Mark Norris, who is President Trump’s nominee for a federal judgeship position in Tennessee. Another co-sponsor was state Sen. Mae Beavers, a Republican candidate for governor.

…The law is wrong and must be repealed. It doesn’t protect our heritage. It only serves to protect memories of white supremacy and shrines for modern-day followers.

Sen. Sara Kyle, D-Memphis, has introduced a bill that would exempt Shelby County from the law in question (SB1467) which, of course, will not be up for consideration – barring a special session – until the legislature returns to Nashville in January, 2018. (It is suggested that Haslam calling a special session on Confederate monuments is about as like as the U.S. House approving Rep. Steve Coehn’s proposed impeachment of Donald Trump.)

Note: The media generally is awash this weekend with opinion pieces on the fallout from Charlottesville, Va., troubles and efforts to remove Confederate memorials from public property display. Here are snippets from a couple of Tennesseans at opposite ends of the state:

From Memphis’ Otis Sanford: Above all, it is now time to completely ignore the sitting president of the United States.

From Knoxville’s Greg Johnson: Both fringes have lost their minds.

 

 

On the history of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust at the TN state capitol

One of the leaders of the successful 1970s effort to place a bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee state Capitol building tells Cari Wade Gervin – in one small part of a comprehensive review of that history, including commentary – that race was not a factor.

Kenneth P’Pool, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member who headed the group’s Forrest Bust Committee in 1973 (and who supported George Wallace for president in 1968), teamed with the state Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, and Lanier Merrit, a Civil War expert and collector, in promoting the idea — which quickly became the subject of black protests at the time that have continued today.

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Republican, Democratic guber candidates differ on moving N.B. Forrest bust from TN capitol

None of the five Republican candidates for governor declares support for removing Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the Tennessee state capitol building, reports The Tennessean after posing the question to all of them. Two Democrats running for governor both say the bust should be moved to a museum.

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Legislative study committee to take a look back at TN lynchings

Tennessee is taking a tentative step toward acknowledging its legacy of lynching and other civil rights crimes, reports WPLN, citing a bill approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

In all, 238 Tennesseans are documented to have been lynched. The crimes include hangings, beatings and drownings.

State Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, pushed a bill through the legislature this year that creates a study committee of three state representatives and three senators. (Note: It’s HB1306, sponsored in the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris). The group will hash out details — or even if the commission is something Tennessee desires.

Turner has no doubts.

“There are a lot of cases out there — unsolved, civil rights murders,” she says. “It is extremely urgent that we do something now before it becomes too late.”

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Study criticizes TN law on school district secession, cites Shelby, Hamilton County examples

A new study on school district secession around the nation says Tennessee law makes it easier than most any other state for wealthy, predominantly-white small cities to set up separate school systems from predominantly-black poor areas.

It cites the formation of six new school systems in Shelby County under a 2011 law as a leading example and also uses as an example plans in the works for Signal Mountain to set up a school system separate from Hamilton County.

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TN civil rights intimidation law challenged in gorilla mask protest at ETSU

The validity of Tennessee’s law prohibiting civil rights intimidation will be challenged by the attorney for a former East Tennessee State University student charged under the statute after appearing at a Black Lives Matter protest wearing a gorilla mask and carrying a string of bananas, reports the Johnson City Press.

Patrick Denton is representing Tristan Rettke, 19, who was also indicted on charges of disorderly conduct. A preliminary hearing on the charges was held Tuesday.

“This was a counter protest in a free-speech zone on campus,” Denton said after the hearing. “There’s no way that his free speech should have been criminalized. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to taint the jury pool.”

Rettke’s charges stem from a Sept. 28, 2016, incident when he showed up at a Black Lives Matter demonstration dressed in overalls and a gorilla mask while carrying bananas with string tied around them in a burlap bag with the Confederate flag on it.

The demonstration was held at Borchuck Plaza, outside Sherrod Library on the Johnson City campus, previously designated a free-speech zone. It’s supposed to be a location where students can freely express themselves without being harassed or intimidated. But several students participating in the demonstration said that’s exactly how they felt when the gorilla mask-clad man showed up — harassed and intimidated.

Criminal Court Judge Lisa Rice told prosecutors they should give notice to the state attorney general’s office about Denton’s promised motion. Because the motion will challenge the constitutionality of state law, the attorney general’s office will handle it on behalf of the legislature.

N.B. Forrest resolution brings Sparks apology, Black Caucus condemnation

Members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators Thursday denounced a House resolution approved – by subterfuge, they said – that includes language praising Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The remarks followed a House speech by Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, saying “no offense to the Black Caucus was intended” by his actions and saying he apologized to those offended. Sparks had sponsored a resolution that honored both Forrest and Sampson Keeble, the first black legislator to serve in Tennessee.

But after that measure was scuttled in committee, he won approval on the House “consent calendar” of a separate resolution that some of the same language praising Forrest that was part of the defeated resolution. The second resolution said in its title, or caption, that it honored a Louisiana pastor who also wrote a book on Forrest. An AP story on the House unwittingly praising the controversial Forrest was distributed nationally Wednesday evening. (Previous post HERE.)

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House panel snubs joint honoring of black legislator, Nathan Bedford Forrest

The House State Government Committee has scuttled a resolution by Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, that would have jointly honored Sampson Keeble, Tennessee’s first African-American state legislator, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate general who was once a slave trader.

At the Tuesday committee meeting, Sparks offered an amendment – approved on voice vote – that deleted the references to Forrest and left only the language praising Keeble, who, like Sparks, was from Rutherford County. The initial resolution notes that busts of both Forrest and Keeble are located “merely 20 steps” apart in the Tennessee state Capitol building.

But Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Boliver, said he and other members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators were insulted by HJR92’s original version tying together two men with starkly different backgrounds – even though Sparks met with caucus members and decided to delete Forrest.

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Rep. Akbari chosen as TN Black Caucus chair

News release from Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators

NASHVILLE—The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators Tuesday elected its leadership positions for the 110th General Assembly of the Tennessee House of Representatives.  Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis was elected Caucus Chair by acclimation.

Rep. Akbari (House District 91) replaces Nashville Rep. Brenda Gilmore, who did not run for re-election.

Following the vote, Rep. Akbari thanked the caucus members and vowed to continue the fight:  “I’m thankful to colleagues for their support in electing me chair of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators.  As a caucus, we represent all three grand divisions, and urban and rural districts, it’s this collective perspective that gives us strength.  Working together, we will aggressively fight for our legislative agenda and for African Americans across this state.  I’m thankful to the leadership of Chairlady Gilmore, and I am looking forward to working with the new members of the board.”

Other positions elected Tuesday were as follows:

  • Caucus Vice-Chair—Rep. JoAnne Favors of Chattanooga
  • Caucus Treasurer—Rep. Johnnie Turner of Memphis
  • Caucus Secretary—Rep. Barbara Cooper of Memphis
  • Parliamentarian—Rep. Joe Towns Jr. of Memphis
  • Sergeant-At-Arms—Rep. Antonio Parkinson of Memphis
  • Chaplin—Rep. Johnny Shaw of Bolivar

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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