Atlanta school named after KKK founder renamed after Hank Aaron

The campus of Forrest Hill Academy will now be called Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy, the fourth such recent change in area schools.

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Forrest Hill Academy, an Atlanta school formerly named after Confederate Army general Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has been renamed.

The campus, a public, alternative school, will now be called Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy.

A school in Atlanta is changing its moniker from one named after Confederate Army Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest into Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy, now named in honor of late MLB Hall of Famer Hank Aaron (above). (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Atlanta Public School policy states that schools can only be named after people who have been deceased for five years; however, that policy can be overridden by a unanimous vote of the school board, which happened this week.

“It is very important that we understand our history,” board member Michelle Olympiadis said during the Monday meeting. “It’s very important that we understand where we are coming from.”

Board Chair Jason Esteves added: “Names do matter.”

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Aaron, the pioneering Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, died in January at the age of 86. He was known as Hammerin’ Hank and is best known for breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714 home runs on April 8, 1974. Aaron endured racist threats during his run for the record and played for the Atlanta Braves his entire career.

He remained a resident of Atlanta, owned 24 Popeyes Chicken franchises and was a philanthropist as well.

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The renaming of this school is the fourth such change approved in Atlanta in recent months, removing the monikers of racist white historical figures from public buildings. One of the city’s most prominent high schools, Henry W. Grady High School, was renamed Midtown High School, a move met with extensive pushback, however, the Atlanta school board held its ground. A stadium adjacent to the school was renamed Eddie S. Henderson Stadium, and a neighboring middle school was changed from Joseph E. Brown Middle School to Herman J. Russell West End Academy.

“It was a lot of work,” Esteves said. “But I also want to make clear that it’s necessary work. People say what’s in a name? Well, there’s a lot in a name. We can’t do the work around equity and not address the name of buildings. This is just a small piece of that, but it’s an important piece.”

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