Monday, May 21, 2007

Nathaniel Bedford Forrest

Perhaps that's a name you're familiar with but for those of you who are not I will provide some background.

Nathaniel Bedford Forrest was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. He is regarded by many military historians as that conflict's most innovative and successful general. His tactics of mobile warfare are still studied by modern soldiers. Prior to the war he was a successful businessman. A millionaire slave trader and eventual plantation owner. And we don't want to leave out one of his finer points, that according to a recent speaker on his behalf, Nathan Bedford Forrest never whipped his slave's on a Sunday. That just wouldn't be right. The guy was an absolute sweetheart. One other bit of interest you might want to note; after the war he gained infamy as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

So why the history lesson (though I did teach history and American constitution for 5 years but I digress)? Because we have a lingering controversy here in dear ole River City. No, the controversy is not whether the "Gators" will beat the "Noles" in football this year, no it's a controversy that has plagued this city for a number of decades. You see, Nathaniel Bedford Forrest is the name of one of Jacksonville's many public high schools and there are many who since the Civil Rights era have fought to change the name. And that fight continues to be played out today.

Forrest High School was originally to be named Valhalla High but was changed to Forrest at the request and recommendation of the Jacksonville chapter of Daughter's of the Confederacy. That was five years after the 1954 Brown decision declared segregation unconstitutional. This year the School Advisory Council made the recommendation to make the name change. The local chapter of the Son's of the Confederacy have now filed an inquiry challenging the recommendation of the Advisory Council. And true to form, the Duval County School Board has put off voting on the name change until a later date. They need more time to study the issue. That's it. We need more time to study the issue.

Change the bleeping name. It's offensive. Period. This isn't that hard to figure out. It's not hard to figure out how it got the name and it's not hard to figure out why folks have been fighting for decades to change the name and it's not hard to figure out why we have an organization fighting to keep the name.

It helps that I bring some credibility to this fight. Sometimes folks will discount what you have to say if they decide you're not one of them. Whatever it is that "them" represents. I'm not certain I want to know. I'm a Missourian. Our state and Kentucky were the only states represented on both the American flag and the Confederate flag during the Civil War. While there were only 11 states that joined the Confederacy you will find 13 stars (states) represented on the flag. Missouri truly was a battleground of brother against brother. Surprising to many is the fact that Missouri is the State with the third largest number of engagements (1,162 battles and skirmishes) fought during the Civil War. (only Virginia and Tennessee had more.) I apologize, I'm slipping back into my history teacher mode. My great great many times great grandfather was taken from his home and executed by Union troops as being a southern sympathizer. All of which is noted on his tombstone. Two of my uncles were "pardoned" in Memphis following the conclusion of the war to return home. I guess the word pardon kind of gives it away as to what side they fought on. I'm also a 32 degree Mason but that's another subject for another time.

In other words for those who may not consider me to be one of their own; don't even go there. I'm an American first and foremost and I'm very much aware of my southern roots. I also can figure out what's right and what's just plain racism. This isn't that hard. Not that hard at all and I'll be proud of Jacksonville once we put this behind us. And we will. We just need a little more time to study the issue.

After all. It's not been that long since 1865...



rubyiscoming said...

Again, I heart Ford.

This naming controversy is ABSURD. It is 2007. Change. The. Name. of the darn school. It is embarrassing.

You are right. There is MUCH to be proud of in the South. This is NOT one of those times. Change the bleeping name of the school! :)

redmaryjanes said...

I agree. Change the name, it reeks of ignorance. Certainly doesn't fit an institution of learning.

OziMum said...

LOL... I must need to brush up on my American history coz I thought, this bloke was where the character "Forest Gump" was modelled on!!! hahaha!

Sorry, I should be serious. He sounds like a hideous man. (not like dear Forest Gump, at all). I think the name should be changed, too. One would hope that the US government, wouldn't encourage it's people to aspire to this bloke? (God bless him for not whipping people on Sunday... what a saint).