On Monday night, the Duval County Public School Board voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School. The high school will no longer honor the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard in large part because over 160,000 people signed Jacksonville resident Omotayo Richmond’s petition on Change.org.
The school board called this special meeting after months of growing pressure created community-wide opposition to the high school’s name. At the meeting, superintendent Nikolai Vitti told attendees that students originally wanted the school to be named Valhalla, and that naming it after the first Grand Wizard of the KKK was a response in spite of desegregation. He said, “I think it is an opportunity to give voice to students whose voices were not heard in the beginning and can certainly be heard now“.
Jacksonville is where Richmond calls home with his daughter, and he couldn’t imagine her going to a school named after a leader of the KKK. The Washington Post reported the name change, saying that “more than half of the school’s students are African American“. Changing the name will be more than just symbolic — it’ll make the school more inclusive for all current and future students.
Monday’s decision marks the end of Richmond’s four-month long campaign to change the high school’s name. “I’m so grateful to everyone who signed my petition and the school board who agreed to move forward in history. Jacksonville is a beautiful place that will no longer be stained by such hatred“, says Richmond.