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Atlanta High School Will Replace Klan Leader's Name With MLB Great Hank Aaron

The past few years have brought a reckoning in America requiring the nation to grapple with its relationship with history and who's deserving of honors like monuments and statues. Once-revered figures like Christopher Columbus and Robert E. Lee have been re-examined and found greatly wanting by the public, and as a result many monuments to them have been removed.

As part of that movement, Atlanta's Board of Education has decided to make a change to one of its high schools, and found a fitting replacement.

At a glance, many people wouldn't have known whose name was attached to Atlanta's Forrest Hill Academy.

Twitter | @APSForrestHill

It is, however, tied to a dark chapter in American history as the "Forrest" in the name refers to Nathan Bedford Forrest, who made his fortune as a slave trader before becoming a general for the Confederacy and afterwards, the first "Grand Wizard" of the Ku Klux Klan.

And so, Atlanta's Board of Education voted to rename the school altogether.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, the school will bear the name of a much more fitting honoree in Atlanta Braves icon Hank Aaron.

To honor Aaron, who passed away in January at age 86, the board waived its policy of waiting five years after a person dies to name a school building after them.

Aaron — who held Major League Baseball's home run record with 755 until Barry Bonds broke that record in 2007 — faced racist attacks throughout his career.

In 2014, he told USA Today that he kept the letters he received that contained racial slurs and threats of violence against him, "To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record."

"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."

In the fall, students at the former Forrest Hill Academy will find a new name on their school: Hank Aaron New Beginnings Academy.

Wikimedia Commons | Alkivar

And the students themselves chose the name, vice chair Eshé Collins, told 11Alive News.

"Hank Aaron represented a life and a legacy for so many of us, and more importantly our students," she said. "The name was actually selected from our student body at Forrest Hills Academy that wanted to change the name and felt that Hank Aaron signified the diligence, the tenacity, the lifelong legacy in Atlanta and in our country and globally. And the students really championed around renaming the school to reflect that."

This is the fourth name change for an Atlanta-area school building in recent months.

The school board previously approved changing Grady Stadium and Henry W. Grady High School — named after a notorious white supremacist who campaigned against equality for freed slaves — to Eddie S. Henderson Stadium and Midtown High School.

Joseph E. Brown Middle School — named after the former Georgia governor who led the state into the Confederacy — was renamed Herman J. Russell West End Academy.

h/t: USA Today