Florida school named after Ku Klux Klan 'Grand Wizard' to finally be renamed

Mail, UK/December 17, 2013

By Ryan Gorman and Alex Greig

Following a petition that gathered more than 160,000 signatures, a Florida school district has finally agreed to rename a high school originally named after a Confederate general and the first 'Grand Wizard' of the Ku Klux Klan.

Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville will change its name to something less controversial after the school board voted unanimously to remove Forrest's name from the school.

According to the Washington Post, the school was named Nathan B. Forrest High School when it opened in 1959 after an organization called Daughters of the Confederacy pushed to commemorate the general.

Omotayo Richmond, who began the petition, has a daughter who attends school in the district, but told ABC News he would not allow her to set foot inside a school named after a notorious racist.

‘It just wouldn’t happen,’ Mr Richmond said. ‘I believe it’s outrageous that this could even be questioned by anybody… that anybody could even come to the defense of this man.’

He’s not alone, the more than 160,000 people who signed his online petition come from all over the country.

‘I am very encouraged that [people] chose to support this cause and I am humbled by that and excited for change,’ he continued.

Today, more than half the school's students are black.

At the school board meeting Monday night, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said:

'If you look at the history of the naming of Nathan B. Forrest High School, the students originally wanted the school to be named Valhalla. Politics reigned and as a response to desegregation and the civil rights movement, the school was named Nathan B. Forrest. That was not the will of the students, and considering the opinion of the students in this process, I think it is an opportunity to give voice to students whose voices were not heard in the beginning and can certainly be heard now

A previous attempt to change the school’s name have somehow failed.

Despite a 2007 Florida State College study that received an overwhelming number of responses in favour of changing the school’s name, the school board voted against changing the school’s name, according to ABC.

The city of Memphis, TN., earlier this year voted to rename a park named after the Mr Forrest, who also was a general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

The KKK marched on the city, with a local leader claiming 'the Memphis City Council is basically trying to eradicate white people out of the history books across America.'

Lance Stoll, the college professor who headed up the 2007 effort, is spearheading this one as well. He believes this time the name will change.

‘We don’t want 60 per cent of the kids, black kids, going to a school named for somebody who would’ve killed them and enslaved them if he had the chance,’ Mr Stoll told ABC.

Over 90 per cent of respondents in just under 2,000 door to door surveys conducted by Mr Stoll’s Jacksonville Progressive Coalition have responded in favor of changing the school’s name, ABC noted.

A further 36 people showed up to last week’s school board meeting advocating to change the name, according to ABC.

Some did speak in favor of the name remaining, arguing for Mr Forrest’s place in history.

‘Forrest, the man, and his association with the KKK is history,’ 1979 graduate Alison Barwick said, according to ABC. ‘The KKK’s function was much different in his time than it is now.’

‘I think you’d be hard pressed to find any Southern gentleman from that era that didn’t have some association with the Klan,’ she added.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos