Tennessee Heritage Protection Act

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This article is about Tennessee Heritage Protection Act. For other uses of the term Tennessee, please see Tennessee (disambiguation).

The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act (THPA) prohibits removing, relocating, or renaming a memorial that is located on public property without permission from the state. The purpose of the Act is to prevent the removal of Confederate memorials from public places in Tennessee.[1][2][3][4] As put by the New York Times, the Act shows "an express intent to prevent municipalities in Tennessee from taking down Confederate memorials."[5]

Permission for relocating or removing a monument requires a two-thirds vote of approval from the 29 member board of the Tennessee Historical Commission,[6] 24 of whose members are appointed by the Governor and the remainder of which serve ex officio (but in fact, at least two of those are also appointed by the governor per term)[7]. This means that the Tennessee Historical Commission acts at the pleasure of, and per the politics of, the current governor.

The law was enacted in 2013, and amended in 2016 and 2018.[6][1]

In 2018, because of Memphis's transfer of ownership of statues of Robert E. Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest as a means of removing them (see Memphis Greenspace), an amendment to the Act prohibits municipalities from selling or transferring ownership of memorials without permission. The amendment also "allows any entity, group or individual with an interest in a memorial to seek an injunction to preserve the memorial in question."[8] Also in 2018, the Tennessee Historical Commission acknowledged that one member (Judge David Tipton) also belonged to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The Memphis Mayor's office has said that as of 2016 there were several people who belonged to both organizations.[8]

As of August 2020, the Tennessee Historical Commission board has permitted the removal and relocation of several World War II monuments in Chattanooga, and has approved the sale of several acres of the historic Sam Davis Home in Smyrna for commercial development. Davis was known as the “Boy Hero of the Confederacy.” The Commission has heard a total of four cases, one of which was Memphis's application to remove the Nathan Bedford Forrest statue.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ebert, Joel. Tenn. House votes for heritage protection law, USA TODAY, February 18, 2016. (in en)
  2. Meyer, Holly. Why removing Confederate monuments in Tennessee is not an easy process, The Tennessean, August 17, 2017. (in en)
  3. Connolly, Daniel. Confederate Statues in Memphis Are Removed After City Council Vote, The New York Times, 2017-12-20. (in en-US)
  4. Barbash, Fred. Memphis to Jefferson Davis: ‘Na na na na, hey, hey, goodbye’, Washington Post, 2017-12-21. (in en-US)
  5. Renkl, Margaret. "A Monument the Old South Would Like to Ignore", January 29, 2018.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tennessee Heritage Protection Act (en).
  7. Board of the Tennessee Historical Commission Two of the ex officio historical commission members (the Governor's Representative, and the Comm. of Environment and Conservation Representative) are effectively also appointed by the governor. The other three (State Archaeologist, Historian, and Librarian and Archivist) are appointed by governors but then serve as professional employees, usually longer than the term of the governor who appointed them.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lohr, David. This Is Why Another Confederate Statue Won't Come Down In Tennessee, May 31, 2018.

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