In the context of the critical issues facing America and the specific issues of job development, downtown development, and Jacksonville Jaguar's football stadium redevelopment, the vote taken by the Duval County School Board is relatively insignificant.
But to those persons who are constantly seeking to drag Jacksonville, Florida kicking and screaming into the 21st century, the vote by the seven School Board members changes everything. Nathan Bedford Forrest Senior High School is located on the western side of Jacksonville. This 19th century Confederate General has been proclaimed an excellent military strategist during the war- between- the states. But Forrest became equally and even more infamously known for years of leadership and some say founding of the Ku Klux Klan.
By 1959, the 20th century; in response to the 1954 Supreme Court ruling that would desegregate America's schools and specifically southern schools, members of that era School Board voted to give high school #241 the Confederate General’s name.
Fast forward to 2013, the 21st century: the school so named in 1959 after a White Confederate General who led an organization founded on keeping America's black citizens in a second-class role; the school which was all white in 1959, is now majority black in 2013.
School Board Member Fred "Fel" Lee said rather reluctantly that "I will do my job as a leader today and move past this controversy, which is dividing my home." Supporters of the name change say that Lee used words once attributed to Forrest on the need for reconciliation.
Four years ago a different Superintendant and Board voted along racial lines 4 to3 to keep the Forrest name. In a move that always reminds us that elections have consequences, this School Board, containing six new faces, voted unanimously to remove the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest from High School #241.
Of the students who voted, 64% were in favor of the name change, 36% were not. 94% of Forest alumni voted against the change. 75% of residents surrounding the school voted against the name change, and 52% of the faculty voted against the name change. Of the seven Board members voting, only one directly represented the area of town where the school is located. The Superintendant has resided in Jacksonville for less than a year.
Elections have consequences.