A Florida school board has voted to keep the name of a Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader at a majority black high school, despite opposition from a black board member who said the school's namesake was a “terrorist and racist.”
After hearing about three hours of public comments, Duval County School Board members voted 5-2 late Monday night to retain the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School. The board's two black members cast the only votes to change the name.
“(Forrest) was a terrorist and a racist,” argued board member Brenda Priestly Jackson.
Board member Tommy Hazouri, though, voted to keep the name and said it is difficult to know “who the real Forrest is.”
The board's chairwoman noted that the intensely debated issue could distract from students' education and had even prompted one person to receive death threats for wanting the name changed.
Born poor in Chapel Hill, Tenn., in 1821, Forrest amassed a fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader, importing Africans long after the practice had been made illegal. At 40, he enlisted as a private in the Confederate army at the outset of the Civil War, rising to a cavalry general in a year.
In 1867, the newly formed Klan elected Forrest its honorary Grand Wizard, but he publicly denied being involved. In 1869, he ordered the Klan to disband because of the members' increasing violence. Two years later, a congressional investigation concluded his involvement had been limited to his attempt to disband it.