On Monday, December 16, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida.
First Coast News reports that Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti wants the student body to come up with a new name for their school, which could go up to a vote during the January meeting.
The school has a majority of African American students, about 61 percent, so having a namesake like Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan isn’t really fitting.
“He should be relinquished to history,” said a community member at Monday night’s special meting, according to First Coast News. “To fade away out of the memory of man forever.”
Others feel the cost of changing the name is too high at up to $400,000 factoring in signage and uniform costs. Vitti plans on asking the community for help.
But the board says they were supporting what the students want, 64 percent voted in favor of the name change.
“My vote tonight does not reflect judgment of a man,” said School Board Member Ashley Smith Juarez, according to First Coast News. “I am not called to judge. My vote tonight honors the voice of students.”
Omotayo Richmond collected more than 162,000 signatures through a Change.org petition to get the school’s name changed. Now, the online petition has the word “Victory” emblazoned on the top of it.
“That’s right, Jacksonville is home to Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, named in honor of a Confederate general who infamously slaughtered Black Union soldiers who’d already surrendered and who was a founding member of the original Ku Klux Klan,” Richmond says in the petition. “The school got its name in 1959, when white civic leaders wanted to protest a court decision that called for integrating public schools. I don’t want my daughter, or any student, going to a school named under those circumstances.”
He feels like the board’s decision to change the name is a win for everyone.
“I’m really glad that we had the opportunity to smash some old paradigm of hate and racism here in Jacksonville,” Richmond told First Coast News. “This city is too beautiful for that blemish to be on it.”
Following a court order, the school was integrated in 1971. It now has a student body of more than 1,300 students, of which 61.6 percent are black, 22.9 percent are white, 8.7 percent are Hispanic, 2.6 percent are Asian, 3.9 percent re multi-racial and 0.3 percent are American Indian, reports News 4 JAX.