US & Canada

Florida school named after KKK leader to change title

A member of the Klu Klux Klan in a white hood
Image caption The Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group, is known for its violent past and white-hooded costume

A Florida high school whose title commemorates one of the first leaders of the Ku Klux Klan is to be renamed.

The Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville will change its name from that of the KKK's first grand wizard in the next school year.

It comes after more than 160,000 people signed an online petition calling for the slave trader's name to be removed.

The board for the majority-black school unanimously voted for the change on Monday.

"It is clear that the Nathan B Forrest name represents disparate views that have led to a cloud of divisiveness that we have had an opportunity to address and remove today," Nikolai Vitti, the head of the board, said in a statement.

'Ancestors terrorised'

A school board survey found 64% of students supported the name change, officials say.

A new title will be proposed in January and it will come into effect when the school year begins in August 2014.

Jacksonville resident Omotayo Richmond created the online petition, which attracted thousands of signatures.

He wrote: "African American Jacksonville students shouldn't have to attend a high school named for someone who slaughtered and terrorized their ancestors one more school year."

The 1,300-student school became racially integrated in 1971. More than 60% of the attendees are now black, according to officials.

The school board was asked in 2007 to change the name but it refused, according to reports.

Since then, membership on the panel has changed.

Image caption The name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park in Memphis has already changed

Nathan Bedford Forrest was a former slave trader and Confederate general during the American Civil War.

He went on to become a founding member of the Ku Klux Klan - a racist group formed after the civil war, known for its violent past and white-hooded ceremonial costume.

"For too long and too many, this name has represented the opposite of unity, respect, and equality - all that we expect in Duval schools," said school board member Constance Hall.

The city of Memphis, Tennessee, dropped Confederate names from three city parks - one commemorating Forrest - earlier this year.

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