No More KKK School Name in Florida


A school board in Florida has voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School to remove the name of the wealthy slave trader, Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan. This only five years after the same school board voted against changing the name.

“It’s time to move forward with the renaming of Nathan B. Forrest High … it’s time to really put it to bed,” said School Board member Constance Hall, who asked the Board to finally begin the process of changing the name on Friday.

Hall and the board’s other African American member were joined in the 7-0 vote by four whites and a Hispanic member in voting to change the name.

Four Jacksonville schools are named after Confederate heroes, including Robert E. Lee High School, as well as the city’s downtown square.

The school’s name was chosen in 1959 at the suggestion of the Daughters of the Confederacy as the group readied for the 100th anniversary of Florida joining the Confederacy, at the start of the Civil War that pitted the pro-slavery southern states against President Abraham Lincoln and the Union army.

This is one of those issues where you just think: how is this even a question? How could anyone possibly disagree with this?

Comments

  1. colnago80 says

    There are also schools in Northern Virginia, and I suspect elsewhere in the Old Dominion named after Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jonathan Jackson.

    As for Forrest, it appears that his views on race evolved after the Civil War. Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on him

    Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. ( Immense applause and laughter.) This day is a day that is proud to me, having occupied the position that I did for the past twelve years, and been misunderstood by your race. This is the first opportunity I have had during that time to say that I am your friend. I am here a representative of the southern people, one more slandered and maligned than any man in the nation. I will say to you and to the colored race that men who bore arms and followed the flag of the Confederacy are, with very few exceptions, your friends. I have an opportunity of saying what I have always felt – that I am your friend, for my interests are your interests, and your interests are my interests. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, and live in the same land. Why, then, can we not live as brothers? I will say that when the war broke out I felt it my duty to stand by my people. When the time came I did the best I could, and I don’t believe I flickered. I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe that I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to bring about peace. It has always been my motto to elevate every man- to depress none. (Applause.) I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, that you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Use your best judgement in selecting men for office and vote as you think right. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. I have been in the heat of battle when colored men, asked me to protect them. I have placed myself between them and the bullets of my men, and told them they should be kept unharmed. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_bedford_forrest

  2. Scr... Archivist says

    Other people for whom the school could be named include A. Philip Randolph, who grew up in Jacksonville, or John Archibald Wheeler or Philip Don Estridge, who were both born there. Any of them would be an improvement.

  3. erichoug says

    It’s good to keep in mind is that people are not one dimensional characters in cartoons. Lee is a great example. Yes he led the confederate army of northern Virginia. But he also served with distinction in Mexico and was the driving figure behind the university of Virginia. Should he be expunged any positive mention of them from history so long after the end of the civil war?

    We love to set our heroes on pedestals and cast our enemies as evil men but I suspect that if you asked the colonial loyalists that fled the US in the wake of the revolutionary war what they thought about George Washington they might give you a little perspective.

  4. unbound says

    @colnago80 – I’m not sure there would be much traction for renaming the Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee schools. While they certainly fought for the south, I’m not aware of any strong statements of racism on their part. From what I do understand, neither Lee nor Jackson really even supported slavery, they simply fought for the side their state was on.

    That is a far cry from someone like Nathan Forrest who claimed to be the KKK’s national leader. It wasn’t until near the end of his life (2 years before he died) that he really recanted his views. Not really impressive considering his involvement for the near decade prior.

  5. dugglebogey says

    I drive by Forrest high school in Chapel Hill TN every day. Also statues of him surrounded by rebel flags.

    I graduated from Stonewall Jackson Sr. High School and attended Stonewall Middle School in Virginia. I haven’t heard much about changing names of schools named for Lee and Jackson, but Forrest is a no-brainer right?

  6. jws1 says

    I think that men like Lee and Jackson should have had a little better long-term vision; if they loved their Virginia so damn much they should have fought for the Union – maybe their beloved state might have been spared at least some devastation with a shorter war.

  7. Alverant says

    My guess is that they hoped no one outside of their community would notice when they first changed the name.

  8. busterggi says

    I’d bet there’s a bucketload of schools & such in Texas named after Jim Bowie – the famous revolutionary who died for slavery to become legal in Texas (it was illegal when Texas was part of Mexico) and Davy Crockett – the illegal alien who joined Bowie’s cause.

  9. says

    Last year we visited Washington DC and we had a reservation at the Holiday Inn in Virginia right across the Potomac. But when I finally did a Google search to find the location of the Motel, I found out it was on Jefferson Davis highway or Blvd or something like that. So I immediately canceled the reservation and we stayed in Maryland.

  10. says

    erichoug @3: Lee is a great example. Yes he led the confederate army of northern Virginia. But he also served with distinction in Mexico and was the driving figure behind the university of Virginia.

    Two of those three things are correct. RE Lee had nothing to do with UVa, however. You seem to be confusing him with Thomas Jefferson. Lee was a West Pointer who then went on to a career in the military and his only experience on the educator side was as superintendent of West Point in the 1850s.

    Also, too, UVa was founded in 1819 when Lee was 12. The acknowledged and historical “driving figure” behind that institution, as I already mentioned, was Thomas Jefferson. His plan was to create a top-notch public university absent of religious influence and offering the finest education in the liberal arts. There is absolutely nothing in Robert E Lee’s biography that indicates he had any interest in advancing that particular mission.

    Should he be expunged any positive mention of them from history so long after the end of the civil war?

    There’s a difference between “expunged of positive mention” and “naming our elementary schools after him.” This is even bordering on a strawman argument, since the OP is about renaming a school named for Nathan Bedford Forrest We need to take our historical figures on a case-by-case basis. R E Lee was a reluctant patriot for a lost cause, which is a net neutral if taken in a vacuum. He made a decision to damn himself by siding with the rebels after being offered the chance to stick by the Union. As such, we probably shouldn’t be putting his name on our public schools as an exemplar of the qualities we want to instill in our future generations.

    Nathan Bedford Forrest founded the goddamn Ku Klux Klan, the United States’ premier home-grown terrorist organization. We should be organizing groups of children to take tours of his boyhood home and gravesite so they may spit on him and everything he stood for. We most certainly shouldn’t be telling them that he’s one of our nation’s great men.

  11. davidbrown says

    Geds @10 Lee was a West Pointer who then went on to a career in the military and his only experience on the educator side was as superintendent of West Point in the 1850s.

    Not quite. Lee indeed had nothing to do with UVa. He did, however, serve as president of Washington University in Lexington VA, from 1865 until his death in 1870. (The university was renamed to Washington and Lee University shortly after his death.) Lee turned down a number of far better paying job offers to become president of the university. (He felt the other jobs wanted to trade on his name rather than have him do something useful.) His career there seems to have been distinguished, and he improved the standing of the school considerably during his time there.

    There is a little anecdote about his time there that as a teacher I like very much. A student was sent to see him regarding some infraction, and Lee noticed that the student was very nervous as he stood in front of Lee’s desk. Trying to put the student at ease, Lee said, Don’t be nervous, young man. You will be dealt with fairly and justly. I know sir, replied the student, and that’s just what I’m afraid of.

  12. dannysichel says

    @9 – did you *tell* them that you were cancelling your reservation because of Jefferson Davis Boulevard? If not, they had no idea.

  13. ekwhite says

    Erichoug@3:

    “Serving with distinction” in a war in which we invaded another country and stole half of their land is hardly a recommendation. This is especially true since it was precipitated by the US annexation of Texas as a slave state. Robert E Lee was a great general, but he was still a racist and a pro-slavery traitor.

    Nathan Bedford Forrest was not only an unrepentant traitor, but also the founder of a terrorist organization.

  14. jakc says

    Indeed EK White, indeed. We are just past Veterans day. I can’t help but think of those men that Lee helped kill through his service for a cause not worth defending. And even after he had to know that the Confederacy was doomed, he fled Richmond and fought for another week and 500 or 1000 men died needlessly. I’d change the name of every Robert E Lee High to George Thomas High

  15. colnago80 says

    Re jakc @ #15

    I’d change the name of every Robert E Lee High to George Thomas High

    AFAIK, there are no schools in the Old Dominion named after native Virginian George Thomas, not even in Northern Virginia. This is a travesty of the first order.

    In fairness to Lee, he was not what one might call a great supporter of slavery; in fact, it is my information that before the war, he favored gradual emancipation and, at least according to Wiki, he and his wife freed all their slaves in 1862. The same article also claims that his wife set up a school to educate the newly freed slaves.

    It should also be pointed out, in fairness, that, had Virginia elected to remain in the Union, Lee would have accepted the command of the Union forces that was offered by General Winfield Scott; like many at that time, he had a greater loyalty to his native state than to the US central government. Had he accepted the appointment, it is likely that the war would have been concluded sooner as, despite his many serious faults as a commanding general, he was still better then the likes of McClellan, Burnside, and Hooker. Those faults would have been less serious as a commander of Union forces then they were as commander of Confederate forces.

  16. says

    I’m good with them naming a school after Forrest, so long as they have a statue of him presiding over a slave auction and a plaque explaining the tableau.

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