Don’t follow Vandy’s lead on Forrest Hall


I thought that Vanderbilt University was the rival of MTSU. I also thought that
MTSU students considered themselves better than Vandy students. Apparently, however,
we are now trying to be like Vandy at MTSU.

I’m referring to the fact that Vanderbilt’s former Confederate Memorial Hall
was shortened in 2002 to Memorial Hall because the word Confederate invoked
feelings of racism and hatred, according to proponents of the measure.

Now, at MTSU, the newly formed "Students Against Forrest Hall" want
to remove the name Forrest from the name of Forrest Hall on campus. The building
being named after a Confederate general is demeaning and racist, they say. Since
Tennessee native Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slave owner and a member of the
Ku Klux Klan, the students believe that any reference to him is a reference
to slavery and violence.

True, Forrest was a slave owner. So, too, were George Washington and Tom Jefferson.
Jefferson was also accused of being "more than a master" to some of
his female servants. Scratch them off any list of great Americans, according
to the beliefs of "Students Against Forrest Hall."

John Hancock, famous statesman and whose enormous signature crowns the Declaration
of Independence, was a cunning smuggler before and during the Revolutionary
War. That rules out any honor to his name, right?

As for Forrest’s involvement in the Ku Klux Klan, there are several major facts
overlooked in the students’ petition. Primarily, Forrest was never a member!
He was a prominent figure who shared original Klan views that the group’s leaders
thought would bring legitimacy and authority to their actions. The same could
be said of Charlton Heston and the National Rifle Association.

Second, the Ku Klux Klan was not founded as a Negro-bashing white supremacy
group, but rather, it was founded as a gentleman’s club with community service
and political resistance to Northern settlers in mind, not violence.

When he was made Grand Wizard, he immediately attempted to stop the violence
and hate crimes committed by Klan members, going so far as to court-martial
and execute three members. When it became clear that the Klan was out of his
control, Forrest left the organization in 1869 after attempting to disband the

According to, Forrest himself chastised the group, saying
that the Klan was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic
purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace."
Forrest immediately distanced himself from any association with the Klan. He
didn’t want to be known as the leader of the Klan if the Klan was going to turn
to violence.

If "Students Against Forrest Hall" want to wipe the name of a legendary
commander and Southerner from the walls of the hall, they shouldn’t stop there.
There’s a town in Tennessee called Chapel Hill. Nathan Bedford Forrest was born
there, and any newcomer to the town would instantly know it, thanks to monuments,
streets and the local high school, which all bear his name. Why not change them,
too? And don’t forget to remove all displays of the names Washington, Jefferson
and Hancock, too.

Where does it end? What is enough? Being politically active is great, but actions
such as this that were seemingly picked out of a hat just because "we wanted
to do something" are petty and irrational.

In fact, from this writer’s perspective, it sounds like these students simply
spouted off what they learned in their American history classes as justification
for their actions. Unfortunately, a majority of history classes at MTSU severely
lack in accurate information about the American Civil War and its aftermath.

Before deciding to remove the name of a respected and venerable general and
Southerner, learn his real history. And by the way, just because Vanderbilt
did it doesn’t make it right.

Copyright ©2006 The Daily News Journal

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