In Jacksonville, Fla., the debate continues about whether to change the name of a local high school named for a KKK member.
Nathan Bedford Forrest High School takes its name from a former lieutenant general in the Confederate army who served as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. For years community advocates and school board members have squabbled over whether to change the school’s name. A new petition recently reignited the issue.
Titled “Duval Public Schools: No More KKK High School,” the petition had amassed more than 74,000 signatures by Monday afternoon. The petition, which was started in August, is addressed to the school district’s superintendent, Nikolai Vitti.
“It is especially troubling that more than half of Forrest High attendees are African-American -- the school is named for someone who would have kept their ancestors enslaved and who helped lead an organization, the KKK, that went on to terrorize, intimidate and disenfranchise Black people for nearly a century," the petition reads, in part.
Omotayo Richmond, who started the petition, told the The Florida Times-Union that he hopes to gather 250,000 signatures.
“I’m not an activist, I’m not seeking media attention and I have no side agenda,” said Richmond. “I’m not trying to start a race war or start any drama, I just want people to be proud of the school they go to.”
Back in 2008, the district school board voted keep the school’s name. That vote was divided among racial lines, according to the Times-Union.
Vitti told StateImpact Florida over the summer that he would “support a name change recommendation if it were brought organically to the [school] board by the community.”
However, some who oppose a name change, told local outlet WJXT-TV that the school’s name represents a part of the community’s history.
“Our history made us who we are, that’s our heritage, our background,” said local parent Michelle Nance. “It’s just like Robert E. Lee, Ed White, Nathan Forrest.”