Ron Word, AP, Nov. 4, 2008
A Florida school board voted late Monday night to keep the name of a Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader at a majority black high school, despite opposition from a black board member who said the school’s namesake was a “terrorist and racist.”
After hearing about three hours of public comments, Duval County School Board members voted 5-2 to the retain the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School. The board’s two black members cast the only votes to change the name.
“(Forrest) was a terrorist and a racist,” argued board member Brenda Priestly Jackson, who is black.
The board listened to passionate arguments from those on both sides. More than 140 people crowded into the meeting room, with another 20 watching the meeting on a television in the lobby.
Many urged a name change, saying the Forrest name was an insult.
Forrest High School, which has received two consecutive “F” grades on state assessment tests, opened as an all-white school in the 1950s. Its name was suggested by the Daughters of the Confederacy, who saw it as a protest to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eventually integrated the nation’s public schools.
But now more than half Forrest High’s students are black.
The issue has come up several times during the past half-century, but the School Board has never changed the name. Jacksonville has three other schools named after Confederate generals, but it also has schools named after civil rights icons.