Memphis made a historic decision to change its relationship with its history. According to Reuters, the city council voted to change the names of three parks that pay tribute to the Confederacy. Councilman Lee Harris said, “We are becoming a city that is inclusive and respectful. Those names were dividing rather than uniting.” Harris is black and worked with six black councilmen and two white councilmen.
Nathan Bedford Forest Park was named for a Confederate general, slaveholder, and first KKK grand wizard. This park has now been dubbed Health Sciences Park because of its proximity to the city’s bustling hospital facility. Confederate Park has been changed to Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park has been renamed Mississippi River Park. The changes became effective immediately after the council passed the vote 9-0. This change was designed to block a proposed state law that will prevent the names of parks and monuments named after historical figures to be changed. That would include institutions named after Confederate officers.
Before the vote, many pointed out that the parks’ names were an issue in a city that is more than 63 percent black.