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 Klan.

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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