A Florida school named after a murderous Ku Klux Klan leader is refusing to change its name despite a petition by the community that’s garnered thousands of signatures so far.
Nathan Bedford Forrest High School is named after the first Grand Wizard of the KKK who as a Confederate General during the Civil War reportedly oversaw the slaughter of some 200 black soldiers, according to the Daily Mail.
The petition on Change.org has 75,000 signatures and urges the Duval County School District (DCSD) to change the name to ease racial division in the community.
The petition’s author, Omotayo Richmond, who says he’s lived in Jacksonville for 12 years and has raised his daughter there, wrote, “people who live here deserve better than a high school named for the first Grand Wizard of the KKK.”
The high school opened in 1959 and was originally attended only by white students. The name was given because white civic leaders wanted to protest a court decision that permitted integrated public schools, according to the petition.
Presently, however, more than half of the students are African American.
“I don’t want my daughter, or any student, going to a school named under those circumstances,” Richmond wrote in the petition. “This is a bad look for Florida – with so much racial division in our state, renaming Forrest High would be a step toward healing.”
But the decision on changing the name or not lies in the hands of the school board, Marsha Oliver, chief of communications for the DCSD said. So the amount of petition signatures does not really matter, the Huffington Post reports.
The school board rejected a similar name change request by the School Advisory Council in April 2007 in a 5 – 2 vote.
But those five board members have since been replaced, Richmond points out in the petition. He thinks now is a good time to revisit the subject.
“There’s a new school superintendent who publicly stated that he would support a push from our community to change the name,” he wrote. “Now is the time to right a historical wrong.”
Sources: Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Change.org