A Florida high school knows they can’t erase history but they can remove the name the KKK leader from their school. The Duval County School Board has made it very clear that they aren’t seeking to change history; they know that’s not possible. However, they do feel it’s unfair to make African-American students attend a school named after a man who terrorized and slaughtered their ancestors.
The community has decided it is time to revisit this idea after the school board was asked but refused the concept in 2007, according to reports. Since that time the school board panel has changed.
Omotayo Richmond, resident of Jacksonville, created an online petition to rally supporters for a new name. He successfully garnered more than 160,000 signatures in favor of removing the KKK member’s name from this Duval County School. A new title will be proposed for the school currently known as Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in January 2014 which will take effect in August 2014.
Nathan Bedford Forrest High School was named in honor of a Confederate general who notoriously slaughtered surrendered Black Union soldiers. He was also one of the founding members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK); a white supremacist group known for lynching and other violent acts against blacks.
The school received its name in 1959 when civic leaders who were white wanted to protest against a court decision to integrate public schools. With so much racial tension going on in the state of Florida the community felt it was time to rectify this issue.
The push to change the name of the school comes after recent incidents in the state of Florida have sparked racial tension. In July the state was torn over the results of the George Zimmerman trial where Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges in the killing of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
Also a federal lawsuit ensued last year alleging civil rights violations when two black women were accused of cheating after scoring high on an adult skills test in a west-central Florida school district.
Renaming a school won’t solve Florida’s problems but it is another step in the direction of healing. They know that history can’t be erased but for far too long the name of this school has been a sore reminder of the past and has represented what this community now stands for; which is unity, equality and respect.
Five years ago the school board voted to keep the name and won 5-2. All five of the members who voted in support of the KKK leader’s name have since been replaced. There is even a new school superintendent who publicly stated that he would support the efforts to have the name changed.
The school which now has a roster of 1,300 became integrated racially in 1971. Over 60% of the students are now black according to school officials. The community and students were happy to hear that the school board triumphantly voted on Monday to change the school’s name by 7-0 for a unanimous victory.
A high school in Florida may not be able to erase history but they can surely remove the name of the KKK leader from their brand. The Duval County School Board successfully voted with a unanimous win because they feel it’s unfair to make African-American students attend a school named after a man who terrorized and slaughtered their ancestors.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)