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Hollywood, Florida ignores that a street is named after KKK Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest

Hollywood, Florida has three streets named after men who murdered people to enslave black people. One of those three people also helped found the Ku Klux Klan. Hollywood has known this for years, as efforts to rename street signs only really took off after that New Times Broward-Palm Beach Chris Joseph wrote a story in 2015 that pointed to the true history of the streets’ namesakes.

That was last Friday exactly two years ago. Since then, the city of Hollywood has come up with a number of excuses for why it’s too expensive to stop publicly honoring murderers and racists. The fight erupted into a protest and an ugly counter-protest this week that included white racist flags and racist slurs being hurled at a black state official.

Here’s a brief history of how things went:

1. Hollywood Has Street Names in Honor of Confederate Generals (June 2015)

It has been almost a week since the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina. And the nation has gone from grief to outrage to debate. The arrest of suspected gunman Dylann Roof has brought to light whether Southern states should fly Confederate flags inside government buildings. The debate went statewide, and on Monday South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced the flag would be lowered. This then led to the Mississippi state spokesman calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the state flag design.

While Florida removed flags bearing the Confederate emblem from the grounds of the State Capitol in 2001, remnants of the old South remain. Particularly in Broward County, where at least three humble streets honor Confederate generals. While many streets across the country are named after presidents and Union generals, these three — all located near Sheridan in Hollywood — still stand as tributes to generals who fought for the South.

2. Anti-Confederate Flag Group Sprays Over Hollywood Signs Named After Rebel Soldiers (June 2015)

Hot on the heels of South Carolina, which voted to remove the Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds, and Marion County, which voted to raise the Confederate flag again, and a New Times article reminding everyone of that Knowing that the city of Hollywood has several streets named after Confederate generals, a group that calls themselves #BlackOutWhiteSupremacy has decided to literally black out street names featuring these Confederate heroes.

3. Hollywood police searching for “vandals” who painted over signs named after Confederate generals (June 2015)

Hollywood police say they want to crack down on the group responsible for painting over street signs named after Confederate generals in the city. On Wednesday, The New Times reported that a group calling themselves #BlackOutWhiteSupremacy has claimed responsibility for painting over signs on Forrest and Lee Streets as a form of protest.

“For years, Hollywood, among many other cities across the United States, has contributed to systematic racism by allowing the names of these cruel Confederate soldiers to be glorified to this day,” the group said in an email statement. “We had to take matters into our own hands against white supremacy. We call on people of conscience to #BlackOutWhiteSupremacy. Hollywood must lead by example to the rest of the country in combating seemingly harmless acts of racism in our communities.”

Police responded on Thursday, calling the protest an act of vandalism and deploying additional officers to surround North Surf Road and Forrest and North Surf Road and Lee St.

4. Activists: Rename Hollywood Streets to Honor Abolitionists, Not Confederates (August 2015)

On Wednesday night, activists from the Green Party and Dream Defenders (who did not recognize the vandalism of the street signs) contacted the City of Hollywood commissioners demanding the removal of Confederate street names and proposing the streets to be renamed Truth, Tubman and Douglass Streets, after abolitionist leaders Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass.

“While the names Hood, Lee and Forrest may comfort white Southerners disgraced by defeat in the Civil War, we cannot deny that they symbolize the brutal oppression that communities of color still face,” the letter reads the commissioners. “We are calling on the City of Hollywood to end official support for these symbols of slavery by renaming these streets in honor of African American abolitionist leaders.”

5. Efforts To Rename Hollywood Streets After Abolitionists Continue (November 2015)

Some groups suggested renaming the streets after abolitionists instead. Sylvie Suri-Perez of the Broward Green Party says her group, along with the Hollywood African-American diaspora think tank and people from the Black Lives Matter movement, have been going door-to-door for the past week to survey the neighborhood and residents to sign a petition to support changing the street names to Sojourner Truth, the first black woman to win a court case against a white slave owner for the return of her son; Frederick Douglass, a former slave who became a leading orator and writer; and Harriett Tubman, an escaped slave who guided hundreds of others through the Underground Railroad.

6. Locals say Hollywood leaders deceive and oppress minorities (September 2016)

Recently, after months of petitioning city leaders, activists have discovered that Forrest Street has been renamed Forest Street, which is phonetically identical, in a small access road to the beach.

Gardner, who had hoped the city would scrap Forrest entirely and rename the street after Harriet Tubman, is furious. She cannot understand the purpose of the new name.

“Really? If that’s your solution, I really don’t appreciate it at all,” she said. “You should be ashamed of doing something so stupid — as stupid as naming the street Forrest.”

Curiously, the new street name doesn’t extend as far as Liberia (Forrest straddles Hollywood), the historically black neighborhood where Gardner lives.

Residents are confused in many ways. Among their questions: why would officials change the name of a street in honor of the great magician only in one of his affluent beachfront neighborhoods, but leave the name intact in poor Liberia?

“Do you know why they would change? [the street name] in the rich neighborhood and not in the poor neighborhood?” asks Gardner. “Because their image needs nurturing, an image of righteousness. A false image of justice. They want clean hands.”

7. The racist killer behind Broward’s most controversial street is a Hollywood embarrassment (September 2016)

Forrest was also involved in one of the most disturbing moments of the war. After taking control of Fort Pillow in the spring of 1864, eyewitnesses said Forrest was enraged to see black men in Union uniform and ordered their mass murder even after they surrendered. Almost 300 people died.

In his book An Unerring Fire: The Massacre at Fort Pillow, author Richard L. Fuchs writes: “The affair at Fort Pillow was simply an orgy of death, a mass lynching to gratify the basest behavior—premedited murder—for the most heinous reasons – Racism and personal hostility.”

8. Why is Hollywood’s Forrest Street still named after a racist killer? (May 2017)

Looking back, Carmella Gardner says one of the scariest moments of her life happened as a child. In the late 1970s she took part in a strange march: dozens of men donned white robes as they promenaded down Davie Road. While Gardner sat safely on the sidewalk, she watched her parents protest a Ku Klux Klan rally – and witnessed members of the Klan verbally attacking them.

The screams grew louder and the air heavy with threats. It seemed like a fight was about to break out in the streets. The young girl watched, heart pounding, as masked men shouted insults and condemned the existence of her mother and father.

“I didn’t fully understand the history of the Klan, but being alone in this atmosphere of hatred was scary,” says Gardner, 46, who is now a grandmother. “I was afraid for everyone’s safety. It was an overwhelming experience.”

Gardner has lived her entire life just blocks from the KKK Rally in Hollywood, one of the humblest cities in glittering South Florida. The racist parades have ended in Broward, but among the Diamond City’s quaint tree-lined streets, many of which bear the names of great American heroes, lies one named after “the devil” himself.


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