The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recently urged the Duval County School Board to rename a public high school that memorializes the first Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan – Nathan Bedford Forrest. In an October 15th letter, ADL asserted that renaming the Nathan Bedford Forrest High School would remove any perceived endorsement of the Klan’s ugly history, as well as help foster a respectful and welcoming learning environment for students of all backgrounds.
ADL Florida Regional Director Hava Holzhauer wrote:
ADL would take serious issue with a public school named after Albert Speer or other leaders of the Third Reich. Given the Anti-Defamation League’s s expertise on the frontline against extremism and hate, as well as within the arena of anti-bias education, we are therefore compelled to question: what type of message are children receiving as they walk into a school each and every day named after the first Grand Dragon of the KKK?
The Klan first emerged following the Civil War as America’s first true terrorist group. Initially, the KKK focused its anger and violence on African-Americans, on white Americans who stood up for them, and against the federal government which supported their rights. Subsequent incarnations of the Klan, which typically emerged in times of rapid social change, added more categories to its enemies list, including Jews, Catholics (less so after the 1970s), homosexuals, and different groups of immigrants. Therefore, a public school bearing the name of the first Klan Grand Dragon implicitly endorses that KKK leadership role and the violent bigotry perpetrated by the Klan.
The School Board’s initial discussion and vote on renaming Nathan Bedford Forrest High School is scheduled for November 4th.