The Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville,
Florida, founded 54 years ago, will change its name from that of
the Ku Kux Clan's first grand wizard from the start of the
next school year in August.
A new name will be proposed in January.
"We recognize that we cannot and are not seeking to erase
history," said Constance Hall, a board member for the Duval
County school, where more than half the students are black.
"For too long and too many, this name has represented the
opposite of unity, respect, and equality," Hall said in a
With its roots in the U.S. Civil War era, the Ku Kux Klan has
long been associated with hooded, white-robed night riders who
menaced blacks with cross burnings, lynchings and other acts of
The honoring of Confederate heroes and emblems has been a
divisive issue in the United States, with proponents saying it
pays homage to regional history and opponents saying it amounts
Memphis, Tennessee in February this year dropped Confederate
names from three city parks — one was named after Forrest, a
slaveholder before the Civil War and a general during it.
The Florida name change comes after incidents that sparked
racial tension in the southern U.S. state.
In July, white former community patrol guard George Zimmerman
was acquitted of murder charges in the 2012 killing of unarmed
black teenager Trayvon Martin in central Florida.
Also last year, a federal lawsuit alleged civil rights
violations in a west-central Florida school district after two
black women who scored well on an adult skills test were accused
Omotayo Richmond, who moved to Jacksonville from New York, wrote
in a Change.org petition that garnered more than 160,000
signatures in support of changing the school's name that doing
so would go toward healing "so much racial division" in Florida.
"African American Jacksonville students shouldn't have to attend
a high school named for someone who slaughtered and terrorized
their ancestors one more school year," Richmond wrote.
The 1,300-student public school, which became racially
integrated in 1971, had voted some five years ago to keep the
name, but those officials had been replaced, the petition said.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; editing by Elizabeth Piper)
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