December 18, 2013
Fifty-four years after the Duval County, Florida, school board ignored the wishes of students and named a Jacksonville high school for a controversial Confederate general, the school will be getting a new name.
The school board voted 7-0 Monday to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School after the current school year ends. Officials will choose between the names Westside and Firestone in January.
When it was opened in 1959, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision that required racially integrated public schools, district officials chose to name the school after Forrest — a former slave trader and Confederate commander whose troops were involved in the massacre of black Union soldiers at a Tennessee fort.
He later served as the first “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan.
“For too long and too many, this name has represented the opposite of unity, respect, and equality — all that we expect in Duval schools,” board member Constance Hall said in a statement from the district.
The name-change was spearheaded by parent Ty Richmond, whose Change.org petition amassed 162,150 signatures.
“I’m very encouraged. Jacksonville is too much of a beautiful city to have that ugly blemish,” Richmond told CNN affiliate WAWS.
“I don’t want my daughter, or any student, going to a school named under those circumstances,” he said in his 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.
At the time it was named, the segregated school had an all-white student body. It is now 62% black, 23% white and 9% Hispanic, according to the district.