After receiving a petition with over 160,000 signatures, the Duval County Public School Board has voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Nathan B. Forrest — for those of you lucky enough to be a little behind on your history of racists — was a Confederate general and, even more damningly, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The name is bad enough, but what's more upsetting is that it hasn't been changed prior to now. Omotayo Richmond, the Jacksonville father who started the petition, expressed his frustration, saying:
I moved to Jacksonville from Long Island 12 years ago. Since then, I've put down roots here. I've helped raise a beautiful daughter here. This place is my home now, and the people who live here deserve better than a high school named for the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.
That's right, Jacksonville is home to Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, named in honor of a Confederate general who infamously slaughtered Black Union soldiers who'd already surrendered and who was a founding member of the original Ku Klux Klan...
...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 school, which — according to the Washington Post — is currently made up of over 50% black students, was given the name "Nathan Bedford Forrest High School" in 1959 when the Daughters of the Confederacy campaigned for it as a way of protesting the integration of public schools. (Pretty charming broads, huh?) The school board was asked by the School Advisory Council to change the name in 2007, but the decision was shot down in a 5-2 vote.
Uh, fuck that. But the good news is that things are finally being righted now (despite some weak flailing by the remains of the KKK).
As Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of the Duval County Public Schools, told the board last night:
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. 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.
Took you long enough.
Image via Getty.