After more than 160,000 people signed a Change.org petition calling for Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville to change its name, instead of honoring the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard and a slave trader, the Duval County Public School Board has unanimously voted to strip the early KKK leader’s name from the Florida school.
At last night’s special school board meeting, superintendent Nikolai Vitti told attendees: “If you look at the history of the naming of Nathan B. Forrest High School, the students originally wanted the school to be named Valhalla. Politics reigned and as a response to desegregation and the civil rights movement, the school was named Nathan B. Forrest. That was not the will of the students, and considering the opinion of the students in this process, I think it is an opportunity to give voice to students whose voices were not heard in the beginning and can certainly be heard now.”
The petition was launched by Jacksonville resident and father Ty Richmond, who says it’s outrageous that the nearly 60% African American student body attends a school named after a founding member of the KKK.
“Jacksonville is where I call home, and it’s where I’m raising my daughter, so I’m incredibly proud of the Jacksonville community, current students and faculty, and of course the school board for supporting this change and for moving Jacksonville forward,” Richmond days. “I’m also grateful to the more than 160,000 people who signed my petition on Change.org. This school was named after Forrest in spite of the desegregation of schools and Jacksonville is a beautiful place that shouldn’t be stained by such hatred.”
The vote concludes a month-long process of soliciting input from current and former students and community members, and ends Richmond’s four month-long campaign to remove the KKK leader’s name from the school.
Last week, school board members held a public town hall meeting and surveyed alumni and students, prompting supporters of the name to wave a Confederate flag outside the school last Wednesday. In October, an “Imperial Kaltrop” of the KKK penned a letter to the Duval County School Board, denouncing Richmond’s Change.org petition as “ignoring the truth,” and urging the sitting board members to “take a decisive stand.”
See the petition here