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For decades, Sidelines, students and the faculty of Middle Tennessee State University have fought for equality and equity for African American students.
In 1968, Sidelines published a guest column from Sylvester Brooks, a Black student from Memphis, Tennessee, titled ”Dixie: What Does It Mean?” In this column, Brooks discussed the usage of Confederate flags, the Dixie fight song and the homage MTSU paid toward Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest.
In 1990, MTSU’s student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP, succeeded in requesting the administration remove the bronze plaque of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the outside wall of Keathley University Center.
In 2006, MTSU students protested the name of the ROTC building on campus. In honor of Forrest, the building harbors large letters on the front wall, spelling out Forrest Hall. Their actions did not result in any change of the building’s name.
In 2016, public outcry persuaded the administration of MTSU to “seek approval for a name change from Tennessee government entities.” MTSU’s request to change the building’s name was denied.
In 2021, Sidelines wrote an open letter to the Tennessee Historical Commission and Governor Bill Lee. The letter included a request to change the name of Forrest Hall. There was no response from Gov. Lee, and the Tennessee Historical Commission relayed there was nothing more they could do. However, the support from the rest of MTSU and Murfreesboro was astounding.
Organized by MTSU Professor Jeremy Strayer, a letter of support was signed by over 600 people. Strayer said in an email, “At the end of February 2021, Sidelines published an open letter asking for feedback on the Forrest Hall issue. Recognizing that MTSU students have led the way on issues of equity on campus, starting with Sylvester Brooks in 1968, we—the undersigned group of MTSU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and administrators and Middle Tennessee community members—write in support of the current student-led effort.
We live in the hope that today will be the day MTSU ceases to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest—a slave trader, KKK leader, killer of U.S. soldiers and leader of the massacre of Black U.S. soldiers at Fort Pillow.
Living in a community, we share the joy and the pain of our collective history. MTSU has associated itself with Forrest for decades. MTSU has also worked to dissociate itself from Forrest through years of protest, led by many courageous MTSU students. These efforts have prompted MTSU presidents and boards to take action, and this continues through to the present moment.
Today, we raise our voices in accord with MTSU’s current students and those who have come before us. As they have done, we call for all ties to Forrest to be severed. We also ask that we not forget this history as if it never happened. In remembering and grieving our past wrongs we find ways to move forward.
Renaming Forrest Hall is imperative if we are truly to be a campus where each and every student can flourish and where the accomplishments of our students, community members, staff, and faculty can be celebrated and honored.
See the list of signers below.
(As more confirmations arrive, an updated list will be maintained here.)Signers-of-Letter-of-Support-to-Change-Forrest-Hall-Name-Sheet1
To contact News Editor Toriana Williams, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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