StateImpact Florida
6:45 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Speakers Defend Jacksonville School Named For KKK’s First Grand Wizard

Nathan Bedford Forrest was the Confederate general who oversaw the Fort Pillow Massacre.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was the Confederate general who oversaw the Fort Pillow Massacre.
Credit New York Public Library

A petition to change the name of Jacksonville’s Nathan B. Forrest High School—whose namesake was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan—has reached more than 160,000 names.

Earlier this week, there was murmuringthat Forrest’s School Advisory Council would address the name change at its November meeting. It would be the first step towards an official renaming.

The item did not actually make it on the SAC agenda this week. But according to the Florida Times Union, that did not stop opponents of the name change from speaking in favor of Forrest:

Joan Cooper, a Forrest alumna, told the SAC that the Ku Klux Klan started as a gentlemen’s club in Tennessee. Once the organization began to grow into what it is today, Forrest ordered it disbanded and separated himself from it.

“Changing the name of Forrest High is wrong,” said Jacksonville resident Harry Wagner. “Changing the name of the school will not improve teaching or the GPAs.”

Before joining the Klan, Forrest was a Confederate general in the Civil War. He was the officer in charge during the Fort Pillow Massacre:

On April 12, Forrest’s force, estimated at 1,500 to 2,500 troops, quickly overran the fort, suffering only moderate casualties. Though most of the Union garrison surrendered, and thus should have been taken as prisoners of war, some 300 soldiers were killed, the majority of them black. The Confederate refusal to treat these soldiers as traditional POWs infuriated the North, and led to the Union’s refusal to participate in prisoner exchanges.

The SAC chairman Le’Andre Wright told the Times Union he would consider taking up the vote in December.