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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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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