Target: Nikolai P. Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools
Goal: Change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School
In 1959, in defiance of a court ordered law to integrate public schools, a high school in Jacksonville, Florida was named after one of the founding members of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. To this day, despite the disturbing history behind the KKK, the high school has never had its name changed. According to a petition on Change.org, members of the Duval County Public School Board voted 5-2 to keep the offensive name in 2008. The author of the petition, Omotayo Richmond, stated that he ‘wants [his] child to be able to go [to any school] in Jacksonville and be proud of where she is. That can’t happen with Nathan Bedford Forrest High School.’
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Confederate general in the Civil War, known for being accused of war crimes when he allowed the massacre of hundreds of black Union soldiers and white Southern Unionist prisoners who had already surrendered. He was later appointed as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK where he contributed to the oppression, terrorization, and murder of countless African Americans. Today, around half of the students at Nathan Bedford Forrest High School are of African American descent. These students daily attend a school named after a man who supported and contributed to the slaughter of their ancestors. As Richmond states, ‘now is the time to right a historical wrong.’
Since the vote in 2008 that allowed the school to keep its name, all five members of the school board who voted in favor of keeping the name have been replaced. Furthermore, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, Nikolai P. Vitti, has openly stated that he would ‘support a name change recommendation if it were brought organically to the [school] board by the community.’ Tell Superintendent Vitti that students should not be forced to attend a school named after such a controversial figure of American history, and urge him to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School immediately.
Dear Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti,
Nathan Bedford Forrest High School was named after an extremely controversial Confederate general and founding member of the Ku Klux Klan. While this fact alone is grounds for changing the name of the school, the history behind the school being named after Nathan Bedford Forrest is equally troubling. The name was given to the high school in 1959 when white civic leaders wished to protest a new law that mandated integration in public schools. For these reasons, it is incredibly reprehensible that this school would still have this name.
It is unjust and wrong to force African American students to attend a school named after a man who contributed to the oppression and slaughter of their ancestors. It is also wrong to ask any student to attend a school that glorifies such a controversial figure.
With these things in mind, I strongly urge you to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School at once.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Username frwl via Wikimedia Commons