Were You Lucky Enough to Attend a High School Named After a Slaveowner and Founder of the Ku Klux Klan?

Well, if you attended high school in Jacksonville, Florida (of all places) after 1959 you probably did.  How did a high school in Florida end up being named after a Confederate general from Tennessee?  It turns out that when the school opened in 1959 various interest groups, including the United Daughters of the Confederacy, competed to win the chance to name the school.  The UDC won and the school was named for Nathan B. Forrest.  It was an ideal name for a school in the South at the height of “Massive Resistance” against a burgeoning Civil Rights Movement.

On November 3 the Duval County School Board will vote on whether to change the name of the school.  Of course, not everyone is happy about such a possibility given their commitment to ensure that our youth model their lives on such upstanding Americans as Forrest:

Bodie Catlin, owner of a truck accessories retailer who speaks publicly about Confederate history, has been an outspoken supporter of keeping the school’s name and said Forrest was a man of his time who was “nice” to his slaves.

“They loved him,” he said. “The only people [in favor of the name change] are people from the North who don’t care about our heritage and some that think the whole war was fought over slavery.”

It’s always those damn northerners who are getting in the way.  Stay tuned for further updates.

8 comments… add one
  • tf smith Oct 26, 2008 @ 23:57

    George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are remembered for many things across the spectrum of human achievement, from the brutality of slaveowning to the tremendous service they gave, at the risk of their own lives, to the cause of human freedom and the independence of the United States; both were men of many facets, flawed but human, and thus deserving of recognition, honor, and contemplation by those fortunate enough to live today in the nation they helped create…

    NB Forrest was a slaver and a failed traitor. What, exactly, is worth commemoration in his life?

  • Karen Cox Oct 26, 2008 @ 17:13

    No, but I did attend Thomas Jefferson Elementary and he had slaves.

  • Greg Rowe Oct 25, 2008 @ 10:36

    If a “coordinated effort” were indeed taking place, wouldn’t the SCV have a much more difficult time getting their flag project zoned by municipalities in which they are seeking to raise them?

    Additionally, to say that we need to rename every school named for Washington and Jefferson totally ignores the fact that contributions to American history and society, far outside and far more important than the ownership of slaves, were made by these men. Outside slavery and the Civil War, based on the limited research I have conducted into Forrest’s life, he would have been little more than a horse thief and an all-around outlaw.

  • Kevin Levin Oct 24, 2008 @ 12:05

    Paul, — Thanks for the comment. First, I think it is a bit too extreme to imply anything approaching a “coordinated effort” to eliminate all symbols of Confederate heritage. I do think that what is currently taking place around the South, including the situation in Jacksonville, is a healthy renegotiation of the shape and form of public spaces. Again, it’s not up to me to decide when enough is enough, but I suspect that it will fall somewhere short of your doomsday scenario of balkanization. Thanks again Paul.

  • Paul Oct 24, 2008 @ 11:17

    Kevin, Using Forrest-like tactics such as “hit ’em on the eeend” and “keep up the skeer,” I forsee a day (if not already) when a coordinated effort will be made to eliminate all vestiges of so-called “Confederate heritage” from the public arena. Courtyard monuments, flags, names of schools, buildings, etc. IMO, I think this is clearly based on contemporary identity politics and fits the definition of “minoritarianism” aka “the tyranny of the minority.” [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_minority%5D Look for “white guilt” and the fear of being labeled a racist to be at the fore. The match-to-flame will come when someone of renown publicly declares that, in his/her opinion, “Confederate heritage” is nothing to be proud of. Who knows if it will succeed, however I sadly fear that this dangerous form of “tribalism” will happen in my lifetime. Isn’t this what’s meant by the “Balkanization of America?” Paul

  • Kevin Levin Oct 24, 2008 @ 7:27

    Dan, — Thanks for taking the time to write. Please keep in mind that I am not advocating for changing the names of any schools. How a community goes about choosing to reflect history in its public spaces and buildings is a matter of local politics. Unfortunately, many of our public spaces were constructed and named at a time when local and state governments were controlled by white Americans. It should than come as no surprise that the choices would reflect its interests regardless of the racial make-up of the community. Let me just state that I see nothing necessarily wrong with changing the names of all public schools. Again, it is up to the people who live in the community to make those decisions.

  • Dan Oct 23, 2008 @ 21:51

    If we change the name of this high school every town and school in America named after Washington or Jefferson should be changed also. You can’t pick and choose who you want to hate and not be hypocritical.

  • Chris Meekins Oct 23, 2008 @ 19:44

    Something is amiss – or did I read that wrong? Surely Mr. Catlin did not mean to say that Yankees think! Why that is an outrage if I ever heard one. And surely outside the accepted cannon.
    Being a scalawag, or a buffalo as called in NC, I feel obligated to point out the slip in the logic sequence.

    Locally, there was an issue over the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award at UNC CH. Someone figured out she was not exactly the modern model of a Southern woman and wanted the name changed. One response was a symposium http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/sept04/reconstruction092104.html.

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