A Florida high school named after a founding member of the Ku Klux Klan is getting a new name after a campaign to change it went viral.
The Duval County Public School Board voted unanimously Monday to rename Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville.
More than 170,000 people signed a Change.org petition launched by a local resident urging the school board to rename the school.
"The people who live here deserve better," Ty Richmond wrote in his petition. "I don't want my daughter, or any student, going to a school named under those circumstances. This is a bad look for Florida — with so much racial division in our state, renaming Forrest High would be a step toward healing."
The petition continued:
It is especially troubling that more than half of Forrest High attendees are African American — the school is named for someone who would have kept their ancestors enslaved and who helped lead an organization, the KKK, that went on to terrorize, intimidate, and disenfranchise Black people for nearly a century.
Naming a public high school for so divisive a figure is a relic of a bygone era — a legacy that must be actively rejected. I urge you to reject the legacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest by renaming Forrest High immediately.
In response, the Washington Post reported, the KKK wrote a letter to the board urging it to keep the name.
The high school was named after Forrest, a Confederate general and the KKK's first "grand wizard," in 1959. In 2007, the school board voted 5-2 in favor of keeping the school's name.
But on Monday, Duval County Superintendent Nikolai Vitti acknowledged it was time.
"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," Vitti said. "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."
"I'm very encouraged," Richmond told Action News Jacksonville. "Jacksonville is too much of a beautiful city to have that ugly blemish."
- Nathan Bedford Forrest