Atlanta School Formerly Named After KKK Leader Will Soon Be Known As The Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy

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Forrest Hill Academy, an Atlanta high school which had been named after a KKK leader, will now be known as the Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy. 

The Atlanta Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to change the name in honor of the legendary late baseball player and human rights champion who died in January at the age of 86, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported

The school’s current name is a reference to Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klax Klan.

“It is very important that we understand our history,” school board member Michelle Olympiadis said. “It’s very important that we understand where we are coming from. It gives a lot of credence to our character and our morals.”

In recent months, the district has agreed to change the names of Henry W. Grady High School, Grady Stadium and Joseph E. Brown Middle School, which are all associated with racist historical figures. The board has also discussed the idea of renaming Forrest Hills Drive, the street where Hank Aaron New Beginnings is located. 

The district policy normally requires officials wait five years after someone dies before naming a school after that person. However, the rule also states that the policy can be waived if all board members agree.

Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record while playing for the Atlanta Braves. The Hall of Famer played 23 seasons in the major leagues, including 21 with the Braves, according to USA TODAY. He made his debut in 1954 in Milwaukee and returned to the same place for his final two seasons before retiring in 1976.

In a 2014 interview with USA TODAY, Aaron talked about the country’s perpetual struggle with racism.

“We are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record,” he said on the 40th anniversary of his record-breaking homer. “If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.”

As Blavity previously reported, Aaron advocated for the coronavirus vaccine in his final days, joining other activists to encourage the public to trust the medicine.

“I was proud to get the COVID-19 vaccine earlier today at Morehouse School of Medicine,” he tweeted. “I hope you do the same!

Speaking with the Associated Press, the former Atlanta Brave said getting vaccinated has made him feel “wonderful.”

“I don’t have any qualms about it at all, you know,” he said. “I feel quite proud of myself for doing something like this. It’s just a small thing that can help zillions of people in this country.”

The change at Forrest Hill Academy is similar to what has been seen around the globe in the past year, with many institutions facing pressure to erase racist symbols. Protesters called for the removals as they demanded for an end to systematic racism following the killing of George Floyd.

Demonstrators made demands in cities like Boston, where some residents pressured the city into removing the statue of a formerly enslaved man groveling beneath President Abraham Lincoln. 

According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 718 Confederate monuments in the country in 2019. More than 300 of the monuments stood in the southern states of Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina

The SPLC also identified 100 public K-12 schools and three higher institutions named after Confederate leaders. 

Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy will officially start using its new name when the new school year begins in August. 

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