School Named after KKK Leader Refuses to Change Its Name Despite Half of Students Being Black and Community Campaign
Simon Tomlinson, Daily Mail (London), September 13, 2013
A Florida school opened in honour of a murderous Ku Klux Klan leader is refusing to change its name despite a high-profile campaign by the community.
Nathan Bedford Forrest High School was named after the first Grand Wizard of the KKK who as a Confederate General during the Civil War reportedly oversaw the systematic slaughter of some 200 black soldiers.
The school opened in 1959 with white students only and was given the name because white civic leaders wanted to protest a court decision calling for the integration of public schools.
Today, however, more than half of the students are African American.
A petition with around 75,000 signatures is now urging the Duval County School District (DCSD) to change the name to help heal racial division in the community.
It was set up by black resident Omotayo Richmond, who says in his introduction: ‘I moved to Jacksonville from Long Island 12 years ago. Since then, I’ve put down roots here.
‘I’ve helped raise a beautiful daughter here. This place is my home now, and the people who live here deserve better than a high school named for the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.
‘I don’t want my daughter, or any student, going to a school named under those circumstances. This is a bad look for Florida — with so much racial division in our state, renaming Forrest High would be a step toward healing.’
But the DCSD says the process for changing the name ultimately rests with the school board so it doesn’t matter how many people sign the petition, it was reported by The Washington Post.
The board rejected a similar request by the School Advisory Council in April 2007 by 5-2, but those who voted against it have since left.
Lt General Nathan Bedford Forrest has long been a polarising figure in the South.
While some people celebrate him as a Civil War hero who sought to uphold the region’s independence, others count him among the most reviled racists in American history.
Besides his role as the first leader of the KKK, Forrest is perhaps best known for ordering his troops to massacre hundreds of African American Union soldiers who surrendered after the Battle of Fort Pillow in 1864.
Before the Civil War broke out, Forrest was one of the richest men in the South. He owned a cotton plantation in Tennessee and untold numbers of slaves.
He became so successful at human trafficking, he opened a slave trading business in Memphis.
During the war, he became known for his brilliant strategic and tactical skills. In 1864, he led 1,600 Confederate soldiers in an attack on Fort Pillow in Tennessee, which was defended by both black and white Union soldiers.
After the soldiers surrendered, Forrest reportedly oversaw the systematic slaughter of some 200 black soldiers, who were singled out for death, while their white comrades were allowed to surrender.
Following the end of the war, Forrest joined the KKK, which was founded by former Confederate soldiers who were attempting to bring freed slaves back under white control.
He served as the first Grand Wizard, the leader of the vigilante group, as it waged a campaign of terror against blacks and white sympathizers – murdering and lynching hundreds and beating hundreds more.