If you were up early today you might have heard this prayer on BBC Radio 4. It was led by The Revd Azariah France-Williams who is a priest in Manchester and the author of books about the Church of England and Race. This is what he said on the radio today:
“Lieutenant Nathan Bedford Forrest had a chequered hisoty, his death came today in 1877. He lived in the American deep south and had been a plantation owner and slave master. During the was he became a highly regarded Confederate general. Post war his notoriety and anti-black white supremacist views made him a natural leader of the emerging Ku Klux Klan. He was appointed in 1867 as the first Grand Wizard of the secret hate organisation, although he contested his level of involvement when asked.
Over time however, the level of raw violence against black people meted out by his new troops disturbed him and his grappling with the tenets of the Christian Faith enlightened him and in 1969 he tried to disband the KKK. He was not successful, it continued but without him. There is controversy surrounding how genuine or not his conversion was to a deeper view of humanity nevertheless in 1875 a black organisation dedicated to black voting rights and fairness in employment (a precursor to the NAACP) invited him as a guest speaker. This was an honour no white man had had before. At that meeting a black woman offered him flowers as an expression of gratitude for what he had done for and with the Black community since his change of heart and attitude.
in this Black History month and at a time of renewed focus on the sin of racism,
lead each one of us from hate to love,
from death to life,
from violence to peace,
from fists to flowers,
from Grand Wizards to the great wisdom
showed through your Son our Saviour,
Jesus Christ. Amen.