When school opens in August 2014, Jacksonville students in Duval County will no longer have to face attending a school named for a celebrated Confederate Army lieutenant general who also served as the first Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
On Monday, December 16, 2013, the Duval County School Board in Jacksonville, Florida has unanimously voted 7-0 to change the name of Forrest High School, named after Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877). In 1959, the Daughters of the Confederacy urged the Board of Education to name the school after Forrest. At that time, the school was segregated. Today, the student body is 61 per cent Black.
Forrest, who was known as 'The Wizard of The Saddle', was among many things, a slave trader. During the Civil War, he was accused of war crimes at the Battle of Fort Pillow for allowing a massacre upon hundreds of black Union Army and white Southern Unionist prisoners. One of his grandsons, Nathan Bedford Forrest II (1872-1931), was the president of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and also Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Board of Education plans to make recommendations on new names at their next meeting set for January 7th.
“It is clear that the Nathan B. Forrest name represents disparate views that have led to a cloud of divisiveness that we have had an opportunity to address and remove today,” said Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools. “I am convinced that my recommendation and the board’s decision will move Jacksonville and the school district forward and allow us to focus on what matters most – student achievement.”
“We recognize that we cannot and are not seeking to erase history,” said Dr. Constance S. Hall, Duval County School Board member, District V. “For too long and too many, this name has represented the opposite of unity, respect, and equality – all that we expect in Duval schools; our Board has and is guided by a set of core values that promote equal opportunity, honors differences, and values diversity.”
1,035 of the students voted on the name change which revealed 64 per cent are in support of a name change while 36 percent are not. Meanwhile, 94 per cent of the alumni want the name to remain the same.