Rebekkah Barrett, Senior, Advertising Major
I recently transferred to MTSU, and was originally very happy with the state of racial diversity and tolerance on campus. My previous university had serious issues dismissing student concerns when it came to racial issues, and it was so refreshing to feel like my school was one I could be proud of, one that actually cared about and listened to their students.
Reading Sidelines’ latest article covering the Forrest Hall name change meetings was my first exposure to the Nathan Bedford Forrest name and history. I was stunned to learn that my university would choose to honor the man responsible for the Fort Pillow Massacre, and a founding member and leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
The main arguments I’ve heard supporting the Forrest Hall name involve the word “heritage.” Men and women, many of them having never spent time as an MTSU student, are outraged that MTSU might choose not to honor their history. The only thing I have to say to that is, “what about my history?” What about the history of the thousands of African American students who are forced to walk past that building every single day? There are many facets of American history, of Southern heritage even, that deserve to be honored. The slaughter of African Americans is not one of them.
Those who oppose the name change seem to think that they are the only ones who have a Southern history. They dismiss the fact that the vast majority of students on the MTSU campus also have a long Southern history and many of them have a much, much different take on the shared aspects of this history. My ancestors fought and died in the Civil War, as Confederate soldiers, and that is a fact I am deeply ashamed of.
Why can we not honor our mutual southern heritage by naming the building after someone who fought for all of our rights as Americans, not one that fought to enslave a large percentage of this university’s student body? I’m horrified that our university seems to be so blasé about the violent history they are choosing to honor, and I sincerely hope that those with the power to change this name decide to memorialize an aspect of our shared heritage that we can all be proud of.
This letter appeared in our March 21 print edition. For more of our Forrest Hall coverage, click here.