"Playing with names and titles and statues in a way to pretend that memory doesn't exist in a different plane for different people and different generations is a mistake," said Holzer, a Roger Hertog fellow at the New-York Historical Society. "It actually takes away from history."
The most recent move to rename the Memphis park began in January.
Councilman Myron Lowery proposed renaming Forrest Park after Ida B. Wells, a black journalist who exposed the horrors of lynching and fought for civil rights for African-Americans and women.
At a park committee meeting last month, Councilwoman Janis Fullilove left in tears after another council member, Bill Boyd, defended Forrest as a benefactor and promoter of black people after the Civil War.
Fullilove, who is black, denounced Boyd's comments as lies. Boyd, who is white, has proposed keeping Forrest's name on the park and renaming a separate city park after Wells.
Historians at Tuesday's meeting of the park commission meeting highlighted the ambiguity of Forrest's legacy.
Rhodes College historian Charles McKinney said Forrest represents subjugation and division. But historian and Sons of Confederate Veterans member Lee Millar said slave trading was a part of doing business in the South in Forrest's day.
"Forrest was known as a very humane slave trader," said Millar, who is white. "He never split families. He allowed his slaves for sale to seek their own master."
A committee including historians, council members and an NAACP representative will discuss what to permanently name the parks. Some black and white council members hope the process helps bring people together.
Others say the city needs to discuss more pressing matters such as crime and education.
"I don't care if it's named for Nathan Bedford Forrest," said Councilman Harold Collins, who is black. "He's a dead man."