In 1959, a new school named for Nathan Bedford Forrest opened in Jacksonville, FL, and now you know where this story is going. Since Forrest wasn’t exactly a poster boy for modern American cultural niceties, there’s a push to rename the school for somebody a little more warm and fuzzy. A couple of days ago, the Duval County School Board decided to settle the matter once and for all on November 3.
Personally, I don’t care one way or the other whether the school keeps its name or not. I understand why the name offends some people, but I can also sympathize with those who prefer to leave it alone for tradition’s sake. As I’ve said before, I don’t think any historical figure will be either lesser or greater because of what we think of him.
I’m bringing this up simply because the article that brought it to my attention has convinced me that it’s downright hilarious. Here’s my favorite part:
The school’s name has been a spark of contention for years. But it became an official issue in the fall of 2006 when Steven Stoll, a professor of sociology at Florida Community College at Jacksonville, presented his research on Forrest to the School Board. In April 2007, Forrest’s School Advisory Council voted 8-6 to rename it Firestone High, after the street where the school is located. A 19th century slave trader and planter, Forrest rose through the Confederate army ranks from private to lieutenant general and later became a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Yes, that’s right. Thanks to the diligent research of a sociology instructor at the local community college, we now know that Forrest was in fact a slave trader, a Confederate officer, and a leader of the KKK.
Professor Stoll and the board members do understand that this is pretty common knowledge, right? I mean, I’m not sure I’d characterize this as “research.” I’m imagining this guy pulling up the Wikipedia article on Forrest and exclaiming, “Holy crap–this guy was a CONFEDERATE GENERAL?!?! I thought that school was named for an astronaut! Quick, somebody get the superintendent on the phone!”
But wait, it gets even better. The procession of experts continues, and Forrest fans have a first-rate rebuttal witness: “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.” Oh. In that case, I guess it’s no big deal.
Is Civil War commemoration a hoot, or what?