Nathan Bedford Forrest & Frederick Douglass: Racial Reconciliation
Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forest shakes hands with abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass in an act of racial reconciliation. Both Forrest and Douglass had a conversion to Christianity and renounced the racism that both had participated in.
Douglass finally found that change of heart which comes by, as he said, “casting all one’s care” upon God, and by having faith in Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer, Friend, and Savior of those who diligently seek Him. Frederick Douglass would afterward become a preacher of the Gospel.
Douglass had read Thomas Jefferson’s “Notes on the State of Virginia” and formed a negative opinion of the author of the Declaration of Independence. While attending church services at the Metropolitan AME Zion Church, only a few blocks from the White House, Douglass mused, ‘How can I claim to love Jesus Christ and still reserve for myself the right to continue to hate Thomas Jefferson?’”
Douglass concluded “I knew that I could no longer do both. I understood, more so than most, that the essence of Christianity is to ‘forgive those who trespass against us.’”
Nathan Bedford Forrest, a plantation owner, slave trader and alleged participant in the founding of the Ku Klux Klan had a complete change of heart. Forrest sought reconciliation with the African American community. When, he was invited to speak at the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, a civil rights group made up of black people in the Memphis area, Forrest declared to the black community, “I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment.’
Forrest continued ‘Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict.’
Forrest concluded ‘Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.’”
The print was created from the colorized heads of Forrest and Douglass from their photographs. The heads were placed on to period dress bodies and placed in front of the American Flag to symbolize the unity of the races in Christ.
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