The Forrest Hall Protest Collection exists in order to collect, preserve, and provide access to the documents, accounts, and history of the individuals and organizations involved in the debate over the name of Forrest Hall and other Confederate symbols on MTSU's campus. Albert Gore Research Center has a strong presence in the Middle Tennessee region, and has an obligation to the students, the local community, and future scholarship to document the current events on campus in their connection to the university’s history. The repository is important for institutional memory, student movements, history of discrimination in institutions, civil rights history and memory, and Lost Cause memory.
Sarah Calise, Archivist at the Albert Gore Research Center, manages the Forrest Hall Protest Collection. You can contact her with questions, comments, or donations at her email address Sarah.Calise@mtsu.edu or by phone at 615-898-2632.
Timeline of Student Protests:
- 1930s-1950s: University administratin, particularly President Q.M. Smith (1938-1958), cultivated the school's connection with Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Confederacy.
- 1954-1958: The school began using newly constructed Nathan Bedford Forrest Hall in the fall of 1954, but the building's official dedication occurred years later in 1958.
- 1962: Olivia Woods enrolled at Middle Tennessee State College and became the university's first full-time Black undergraduate student.
- 1960s: Black students started to challenge the university's use of Confederate symbols, such as the "Dixie" fight song and the use of Forrest as the school's mascot.
- 1970s: Black students continued to protest racism on campus and the school's use of Forrest on official logos. In December 1970, a cross burning occurred following a basketball game. Black students protested the incident at President M.G. Scarlett's home that same night. The cross burning was possibly a response to Black Student Association's "Get Hip Whitey Week."
- 1980s: Debates about racism and race relations on campus continued on and off throughout the decade. In December 1989, President Sam Ingram removed the large medallion of Nathan Bedford Forrest from outside the Keathley University Center at the request of the school's NAACP chapter. In early 1990, this decision caused much uproar among some students.
- 2005-2007: Black students protested the name of Forrest Hall, which was the last major physical representation of MTSU's relationship with Confederate memorialization. After considering input from students and community members, the university decided to keep the name.
- 2015-Present: Following the massacre of nine Black people at a South Carolina church in June 2015, debates over Confederate memorialization occurred across the nation. Black students once again demanded that the university rename Forrest Hall.