JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) – A Duval County School Board member has formally requested that the board consider changing the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School – whose namesake was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Times Union reports that on Tuesday, board member Connie Hall submitted a letter formally requesting renaming of the school. Another meeting on the issue is scheduled for Friday. The seven board members are expected to have a discussion on the matter and instruct the superintendent to formally set up procedures for possibly renaming the school, which will include soliciting community input.
“This has been in the community for quite some time, too long,” Hall said. “It definitely needs to be addressed, one way or another.”
Supporters of keeping the name say Forrest later disassociated himself from the Klan and objected to the group’s activities.
“He was not the racist monster the media would lead you to believe he is,” said Barbie LangdonRatliff, a 1976 Forrest High graduate.
Others say Forrest (pictured above) was a slave owner, slave catcher and a leader in the Confederate Army who helped found the KKK and that removing the name would help heal wounds from the past and respect today’s community wish for a different name.
Wells Todd, a community member who supports a name change, said the school should be renamed to something that does not embarrass Jacksonville.
“This has gotten as far as Russia and Mexico; people all over the world are looking at us,” he said.
Another supporter of a name change, Damon Jameson, agreed. “It’s not just the school; it’s the reputation of our city. … If we’re going to be the bold, new city of the South we need to stop kidding ourselves.”
Listen to Roland Martin talk about the school’s name with Omothya Richmond below.