A major coup has been won by the students at the controversial Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Fla. After 54 years of ignoring the wishes of protestors who argued that the school should not be named after an American Civil War Confederate lieutenant-general and later served as a Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, the educational facility will now finally be receiving a new moniker, reports WPTV.
The Duval County School Board voted on Monday, 7-0 that the high school, which has a predominantly Black student body, will choose between the names of “Westside” and “Firestone” in January.
When the high school opened its doors back in 1959 during the middle of the Civil Rights era, district school officials at the time chose to name it after Nathan B. Forrest (pictured), who had also been a slave trader. Under the Confederate lieutenant general’s orders, his troops massacred Black union soldiers at a Tennessee fort. Forrest then went on to serve as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK in 1867.
Under his leadership, he and his dragoons launched a campaign of midnight attacks, which included whipping and killing Black voters and White Republicans to scare them from voting and running for office.
The high school name change was actually spearheaded this go-round by Ty Richmond, a parent who set up a Change.org petition that garnered 162,150 signatures. Many attempts had been made previously to get board members to change the high school’s name but to no avail.
The battle to get the name change this time was a tough one, as those who opposed it hovered around 36 percent of the student body; more than half of the faculty was against it as well. A Missouri KKK leader also protested the change, saying those pushing for it are ignoring “the true historical facts surrounding this valiant man of honor.” Those who fought for the name of the school to remain argued that Forrest was a military genius who was just misunderstood and that he tried to mend his racist ways near the end of his life.
The students, parents, school board members and faculty didn’t buy that argument. After it was all said and done, the name change prevailed and racism lost!