School Named for KKK Grand Wizard Gets Much-Needed New Name

Forrest High SchoolNathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida will change its name after more than 160,000 people signed an online petition. The Duval County Public School Board has unanimously voted to strip the early Ku Klux Klan leader’s name from the Florida school.

It was a pretty intense debate and was initially rejected as a proposal by the school board. It was the petition that changed all that. It's unclear what the new name will be.

In many ways, this is really the way the Internet is awesome. Locally they would have kept it, but Change.org shifted that. We are a global community, which, in cases like this or in Steubenville, is a good thing. If the local community is myopic and small-minded, then things can still change.

On the other hand, how many school have questionable names?

This school is largely African American and Forrest's history is dubious, indeed. He was a slave trader, and historical reports and some say he gave the order to kill 300 captured black Union soldiers. He was also an honorary member of the KKK. None of these are good things, and honestly, I wouldn't want to go to a school bearing his name, either.

But let's also be honest. There are many, many people we revere in our historical textbooks and name schools and buildings and streets for who have questionable histories.

What about Christopher Columbus, who, by all accounts, was a greed-motivated, Native American killer who didn't respect anyone's beliefs but his own. He is the LAST person we should have an entire day named for. But we do. We also have streets and buildings and entire TOWNS named for him.

What about Thomas Jefferson? He is also very questionable and many reports say he was a horrible racist who owned slaves and wasn't nearly the hero we purport him to be.

In all fairness, I support the changing of this school's name. I would have signed the petition and think it was the right thing to do. But there is a lot of change that needs to happen if we are going to start down this path and a whole lot of names that have to be changed as well if we are going to erase hate from our past. 

Do you think the name should have been changed here?

 

Image via statelibrarync/Flickr

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