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Saturday, 12 February 2011

Mississippi ponders putting KKK leader and Confederate hero Nathan Bedford Forrest on license plates (USA)

A new civil war is brewing in Mississippi over a proposal to put a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard on state license plates.

Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, notorious for leading a massacre of black Union soldiers and leading the KKK in its early days, would appear on the plates in 2014 if the group Sons of Confederate Veterans gets its way.

The organization is sponsoring a series of specialty plates over the next four years to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

This year's plate features the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

The state's chapter of the NAACP strongly criticized the call to honor Forrest, who led several battles in Mississippi during the war.

"He should be viewed in the same light that we view Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden," Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP in Mississippi, told The Associated Press, adding that the Klan was a "terrorist group."

"The state of Mississippi should deny any vanity tags which would highlight racial hatred in this state," he said.

Forrest was born in Tennessee and joined his home state's KKK shortly after the war. Klan members were notorious for beating and killing blacks in the South, as well as intimidating black voters during elections.

The general has been hailed as a military hero and disgraced as a butcher leading a slaughter of black troops who had surrendered during a battle at Fort Pillow, Tenn. in 1864.

However, before his death in 1877, some historians claim Forrest softened his views on racial relations.

"If Christian redemption means anything - and we all want redemption, I think - he redeemed himself in his own time, in his own actions, in his own words," Greg Stewart, a Sons of Confederate Veterans member, told the AP. "We should respect that."

At least one black state lawmaker isn't bothered by the group's push to remember Forrest.

"I don't have a problem with it," Rep. Willie Bailey said. "They have that right. We'll look at it. As long as it's not offensive to anybody, then they have the same rights as anybody else has."

 NY Daily News