Virginia Students Demand Renaming of High Schools Named After Confederate Generals

August 31, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

In an important development, related to the widespread movement to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina and elsewhere in the wake of the Charleston massacre, high school students at J.E.B. Stuart and Robert E. Lee High Schools in Fairfax County, Virginia (on the border with Washington, DC) have launched a petition campaign to rename the schools. Both schools are named after Confederate Army generals. The students are also demanding a similar change for W.T. Woodson High School, named after a segregationist Fairfax County School Board head who opposed Brown v. the Board of Education, the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision on school integration.

More recently, Oscar winners Julianne Moore, actor, and Bruce Cohen, film producer (American Beauty, Silver Linings Playbook, Milk), have started a petition on asking that J.E.B. Stuart High School be renamed for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who lived in the school district and is known for his advocacy in Brown v. Board of Education. Moore and Cohen attended the Fairfax County school in the late 1970s. As of this writing, the petition had gotten nearly 30,000 signatures. In a statement to the Washington Post, Moore said it is reprehensible that the school is named for “a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings.” The New York Times has also written about this.

The students’ petition states: “In the wake of the slaughter of eight members and the pastor of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015 by a White Supremacist who admired segregation in the US South, in Rhodesia and in South Africa, we, the undersigned, hereby formally request that the names of J.E.B. Stuart High School, Robert E. Lee High School and W.T. Woodson High School be changed immediately. Current display of Confederate and Segregationist names and themes on government buildings can only serve to fuel legitimacy among 21st century White Supremacists. Moreover, these school names perpetuated, for over 56 years, the racial tension the supporters of the ‘Massive Resistance’ movement against Virginia public school integration, including FCPS School Board Chair W.T. Woodson himself, intended to engender in the student population of these High Schools and in the community at large by naming them after two Confederate Generals and Woodson, a civil servant who was widely known to have been opposed to the 1954 desegregation law of the land, Brown vs. the Board of Education.”

Perhaps ironically, this school district is the same one depicted in the great movie Remember the Titans, which is based on the true-life story of how the T.C. Williams High School football team was de-segregated in 1971.

There are similar campaigns to remove the blood-drenched symbols of slavery off of public and other institutions nationwide. These struggles need to be supported, and deepened. There is already major pushback from some alumni associations, and more broadly, to keep the names. Fairfax County is basically a suburb of Washington, DC, where many federal government bureaucrats and military brass live. I don’t think we’ve seen the full development yet of the fascist side of this society-wide polarization.


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