A petition on change.org with some 75,000 signatures is asking a Florida school district to change the name of a high school that is named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and the first “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan.Yes, there is a school named after the founder of the KKK, in America, in 2013 (there's another in Forrest's birthtown in Tennessee). This Jacksonville school opened as a whites-only school in 1959 with the help of the Daughters of the Confederacy, a reaction to desegration efforts.
Now that more than half of the school's students are African American, perhaps a rebranding might be in order? Can you imagine what message that name sends to those kids? Believe it or not, a 2007 effort failed on a 5-2 vote of the school board.
The School Board did not accept that recommendation and voted 5-2, in November 2008, not to change the name. During that conversation, opponents said removing Forrest's name was a step toward erasing Southern heritage and called Forrest a civil rights advocate and a good man.Up is also down, and black is white. How good of a man was Forrest? How much of a civil rights advocate?
Achilles Clark, a soldier with the 20th Tennessee cavalry, wrote to his sister immediately after the battle: "The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor, deluded, negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees, and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. I, with several others, tried to stop the butchery, and at one time had partially succeeded, but General Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased."More on N.B. Forrest High School below the fold.
Ulysses S Grant wrote in his memoirs:
These troops fought bravely, but were overpowered. I will leave Forrest in his dispatches to tell what he did with them. 'The river was dyed,' he says, 'with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.' Subsequently Forrest made a report in which he left out the part which shocks humanity to read.I wish I knew which part of that original dispatch Grant thought shocked humanity, because it pretty much all does. As does his subsequent career as the guy who gave us the KKK. In any case, those five racist members of this school board are all gone, and the new superintendent appears eager to wipe that blight off the school's face.
"I was alarmed that a name which could evoke such polarizing views and emotions was used to name a school," Vitti said. "I would support a name change recommendation if brought organically to the [school] board by the community."But old bigotries die hard. What should be a no-brainer is the subject of terrible controversy in Jacksonville, Florida, in the Georgia/Alabama part of the state.