Memorial Monument For KKK Grand Wizard Planned In Alabama, Activists Petition Against It

By Niki Gatewood  |  08/24/2012

In Selma, Alabama, a monument to the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan is under construction on public land.

The statue of Confederate General Nathan Forrest -- infamous for being the first Grand Wizard of the Klan and for massacring black Union soldiers at the Civil War battle of Fort Pillow -- even has the blessing of the Selma City Council.

Selma is home to some of the most important events of the Civil Rights Movement -- including "Bloody Sunday," a date in 1965 where 600 activists, fighting for African-American voting rights, were attacked by state and local police.

Unless the city council stops it, a "bigger and better than ever" monument will be constructed to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Malika Sanders-Fortier, a community leader in Selma who has launched a petition against the monument, says she was outraged upon hearing the news. A proud resident, familiar with the city's place in history, she thinks that monument celebrates violent racism, intolerance and has no place there.

"I grew up in Selma. Now, as a community organizer, I think often about the sacrifices of the people who lived here before me," Malika attests. "I was outraged and ashamed to learn that Selma's city council is sitting idly by as a local neo-Confederate group expands a public monument to a founder of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

She continues, "Monuments celebrating violent racism and intolerance have no place in this country, let alone in a city like Selma, where the families of those attacked by the Klan still live."

A group called Friends of Forrest, who built the original monument, and is planning to add to it, laying concrete for a new foundation, adding a new bust of the KKK founder, enclose the monument in a wrought iron gate, and add night lighting.

"The Friends of Forrest, a Confederate organization, co-founded by Cecil Williamson and Patricia Godwin, are behind the building of the monument.  "[Friends of Forrest] have been raising money for years for a permanent monument to Forrest by selling a packet of information that was originally published by the KKK right after the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March.  They call the packet, Truth Uncensored; it attacks the Voting Rights Movement," the organization says on their website.

Hank Sanders, an Alabama State Senator representing Selma County, is challenging the building of a Monument to General Nathan Bedford Forrest, pointing to the negative's historic general's past.

"Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the richest slave dealers in the South," said Sanders. "Under General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s leadership, Black soldiers who had surrendered were murdered in cold blood at Fort Pillow, Tennessee during the Civil War.  After the Civil War, General Nathan Bedford Forrest took leadership of the Klan, becoming its first Grand Wizard, and built it into a national force that terrorized Black people across this country for decades.  There is already a monument to Forrest at Live Oak Cemetery.  We do not need a bigger monument of Forrest in Selma, the symbol for voting rights and freedom all over the world."

For those of you who also don't agree with Forrest being forever immortalized in stone, visit Malika's petition at