This Campus Building Is Named After the First Klan Grand Wizard. Can These Students Change It?

“Black lives matter. Black students matter.”

Students protest at a public comments session to debate changing the name of Middle Tennessee State University's Forrest Hall. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Catte

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Black student activists at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, are demanding a name change for Forrest Hall, the ROTC building that is named for a Confederate general and the Ku Klux Klan’s first grand wizard, Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The students issued a statement to the university’s president, Sidney McPhee, in advance of a public forum on the proposed name change that took place Wednesday night. “We fundamentally believe that MTSU will not and cannot move forward from its legacy of white supremacy until it removes all its symbols of white supremacy,” the letter states.

Demands for the name change have intensified in the aftermath of the massacre at an African American church in Charleston, South Carolina, last June, as more and more Confederate symbols in the South are being removed from public spaces.

The Wednesday meeting was the second of two public comment sessions to debate the potential change. Students reportedly walked out of the meeting, chanting, “Change the damn name,” and holding signs in protest. According to a report in the local newspaper, the Daily News Journal, some are suggesting the building should be renamed to Veterans Hall, to honor those who have served in the military.

“Veterans Hall would be a nice thing to name it, but you’ve got to think about the root cause of changing the name—political correctness,” Pat Godwin, who defended the original name, told the Daily News Journal.

The committee, composed of faculty, alumni, and students, is slated to make a recommendation to the Tennessee Board of Regents on the potential change in April.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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