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Fight over renaming Forrest High sparks heated debate

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Updated: 10/04/2013 12:02 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If you thought budgets sparked a big debate, the fight over renaming Nathan Bedford Forrest High School trumped it.

It was inevitable. After the letter from the Ku Klux Klan was sent to Duval County School Board member Jason Fischer, many knew the issue would come up at Thursday night's town hall meeting at Mandarin High School.

"I am an alumni of Nathan Bedford Forrest High school, School, class of 1989. I do not think the name should be changed," said a local neighbor.

With a beefed-up police presence looking on, those gathered prepared for a heated debate. They got it.

"You need to make up your mind," shouted one person. There was yelling from the crowd and a line of angry constituents impatiently waiting for their turn to speak.

"I don't think all of those cameras are out there for the budget," said another. Among those who spoke was a Daughter of the Confederacy.

"Nathan Bedford Forrest is a Confederate general and very much apart a part of my heritage. Do I believe he should be honored? ... Absolutely not," said Eleanor Wilson.

The letter from the Traditionalist American Knights encouraged the school board not to change the name of the school, despite admitting that Nathan Bedford Forrest was the Grand Wizard of the KKK, saying "(he) carried out his duties as the office demanded of him."

"He caught slaves, he killed slaves and most egregiously of all he killed 300 buffalo soldiers. Murdered them in cold blood," said Dr. Juan Gray, board chairman of Jacksonville's Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Leaders say those actions are not worthy of a being honored.

"Where is the logic in naming schools in our community," asked Gray.

Action News requested the latest policy Duval County has in place for naming or renaming schools, which was implemented in 1997. It was revised in 2008. It states "the name of a school shall not be of a person living or dead." The policy also states that if a request has been made to rename a school, input from the community must be solicited.

Ultimately, it comes down to the school board's final decision, and the board has  30 days to come up with it. School board member Connie Hall oversees District 5, where Forrest High School is located. We're told she, too, will hold a town hall-style meeting in the coming weeks to gather further input from those living within that school zone.
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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Action News Jacksonville

RFM2009 - 10/5/2013 6:50 AM
0 Votes
The School Board and Duval County Public Schools superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti - Both should be tending to the real problems in the Duval County School System. For instance, the teachers salaries, quality of teachers, schools and extra curricular activities. The renaming of NB Forrest High School is nothing more than diversive action based on shabby politics and reverse discrimination. Get back to basics Mr. Supt. EDUCATION of our CHILDREN!

nativejax - 10/4/2013 8:56 PM
0 Votes
The past is the past. MOST people do not even know who the h3ll he was. I didn't. It is not the whites that is hanging on to the past hate, it is the blacks. If you can HONOR a THUG with a memorial here in Jacksonville for attacking a night watchman, then you can honor the idiots that made up our history. Right or wrong, it GOT US HERE TODAY, IN THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, ALL OF OUR ANCESTORS PAID A PRICE ONE WAY OR ANOTHER WHILE BUILDING THIS COUNTRY. FORGET THE PAST AND FORGIVE THEM ALL OF THEIR MISTAKES AND MOVE ON. The children will LEARN what NOT to do by reading these same mistakes, so they won't be repeated. The past is dead,we arn't.

polyneux - 10/4/2013 3:56 PM
0 Votes
RFM nailed it on the head. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone changed their views. Forrest did what many people couldn't and lead a lot of people in a war. No one can say which side was truly correct. The Klan got too violent so he shut it down. No Klan iteration is the same as his. Late in his life he spoke for the unity of all races, that we should elevate to public office etc. The point is that he changed, and always supported what he thought was a good cause. Causes and times change, and he happened to live in times as they changed. It doesn't matter if you thought he was on the wrong side. He was an American fighting for a change which is more than most can say. More directly. I'm sure Jean Ribault treated non-europeans poorly. I'm sure Robert E Lee, the president of the confederacy, had some policies and beliefs that people should be upset over. What did Andrew Jackson do to stop slavery? Are we really sure that Ed White wasn't racist at all? The real question is are we going to launch into this witch hunt every time someone gets up in arms about something that happened hundreds of years ago. The high school name was selected based on his service in the Civil War which he fought with honor, and set many many military standards that lasted well into World War II. Confederate does not mean slave owner. Less than 2% of the entire US population owned slaves. Most of the people in the south were not included in that number. Many fought for many reasons other than that.

Patrick James - 10/4/2013 1:13 PM
0 Votes
I do not support support any of the white shame, history revisionism nor any "political correct" agenda. I do, however, consider it a mistake to name a school after Nathan Bedford Forrest...and this mistake should have been corrected years ago. There are countless other names, that are far more appropriate. This even includes Confederate heroes. Forrest was not only an early leader of the KKK (and please don't go on about the good deeds of the early KKK...they still terrorized the newly freed slaves and free blacks) and a brutal Confederate general, but a war criminal guiltly of committing horrific attrocities (i.e., scalping fallen Union soldiers). It was by his shady Masonic connections that he managed to get a Presidential pardon (from President Andrew Johnson,a Mason, who narrowly escaped being removed from office by one vote)instead of getting convicted of war crimes. If anyone wants to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, I suggest naming a Masonic Temple after him.

lakekat - 10/4/2013 9:45 AM
0 Votes
OK, I look at it this way..there should be a change to the name. It seems inappropriate to allow the school to honor the memory of a historical figure with the background and affiliations he chose. It would upset me, as well, to know the name of the school I graduated from had been changed. Why not a rename the school.."New Forrest High School" and drop the Nathan B. from the name entirely.

Realchange - 10/4/2013 8:12 AM
1 Vote
Why is it that thing having to do with heritage for white southern people are under attack but when black heritage does something similar there is no consequences or action? Example Sandusky molests teenage boys it's serious crime. Michael Jackson is known to have done the same thing now as well as the Elmo actor results= no charges and do not discuss this publically. Other examples include it's ok to name a carrier after Bush but they do not discuss how he refuses to acknowledge hundreds of thousands veterans who served under his term in office are denied disability by the VA. Refused even the basic right of a jury trial. Yet people want claim Forest High school should be renamed. How would you liked to serve under a man who is claimed to been a hero? Only to find out they treated fellow Americans worse than dirt, and they are the worst of the lot? I want to know why it is ok for black Americans and former Presidents of the United States to treat people like animals and get away with it. MJ and the Elmo actor both beat the system when they should been in jail. Then we get an uproar about man who's been dead for years, who served his country in battle. Did he do terrible things? Yes but so did Bush I don't see people calling for his removal from US ships named after him or removing his name off schools named after him. How would you like a President to cheat you after poisoning you how would you feel then about this issue?

RFM2009 - 10/4/2013 6:19 AM
1 Vote
History is History - This entire debacle is nothing more than an exercise in futility. People forget N.B. Forrest also shut the Klan down and more importantly he was a decorated Civil War Veteran. When will we see the same levels of energies used in seeking better teachers, teacher pay and successful students?
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