By Brandi Fowler
Updated Dec 21, 2017 @ 4:00 pm
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Credit: Getty Images

Just months after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over a statue of Robert E. Lee, onlookers in Tennessee cheered and sang joyfully as Confederate statues were removed from two parks in Memphis.

The move came after the city council voted Wednesday to sell two city parks with Confederate monuments to a private group, which made it possible for the organization to immediately remove the statues, the New York Times reports. The move comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot and killed in the city.

A statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and an early member of the Ku Klux Klan, was first removed from Health Sciences Park and a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, was removed by crane from Memphis Park as a crowd of onlookers sang songs like “Hit the Road Jack.”

“History is being made in Memphis tonight,” Memphis mayor Jim Strickland said at a news conference.

Earlier in the day, he tweeted out several messages about why it was important for the statues to be taken down and how proud he was of how Memphis residents united for it. “This is an important moment in the life of our city,” he tweeted. “People from all walks of life came together to make today a reality. Let us move forward from this moment committed more than ever to a united and determined Memphis."

“In all of my life in Memphis, I’ve never seen such solidarity. To all who are watching right now: THANK YOU,” he continued.

“This day would not have been possible without you. But this day should be much more about where we go from here. So I want you to hear me loud and clear: Though some of our city’s past is painful, we are all in charge of our city’s future. Black and white, young and old—every single one of us.”

VIDEO: Confederate Statue in Memphis Taken Down

“So here’s the challenge I leave you with today: That we carry this same spirit of solidarity to cast the Memphis we want for our next hundred years,” he continued. “Because while these statues will be gone, our challenges remain. Let us move forward from this moment committed more than ever to a united and determined Memphis. Today showed us just how successful we can be when that happens.”

Strickland also shared his thoughts in a note on Facebook about why the statues were removed, how it happened, and where the city should go from there.