Over the summer, cities and states scrambled to respond to the protests that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death from police violence. Among the many symbolic gestures was the renaming of schools named after Confederate leaders.
According to CNN, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) has found that over 240 schools are named after Confederate leaders. Making this even more suspect is the fact that about half of these schools serve student populations that are predominantly non-white. According to the EJI, this was intentional.
From the EJI:
Historically, the practice of naming schools to honor the architects and defenders of slavery has been part of a broader effort to maintain racial hierarchy in the U.S. In particular, many schools were given Confederate-themed names in the 1950s and 1960s as Southern states mounted what they termed “Massive Resistance,” a coordinated effort by governors, legislators, and other white leaders to resist the racial integration of public schools. As federal law increasingly required school desegregation, white communities built new schools—schools that were either explicitly or implicitly intended for white children only—and named those schools after white Southerners who were notorious racists.
The schools are located in 17 different states, mostly throughout the south. Jefferson Davis Elementary School in Greenwood, Miss., is named after the president of the Confederacy. Its population is almost entirely made up of Black students.
Stonewall Jackson Elementary in Plant City, Fla., is named after Confederate general and slave owner Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. That school has an 85 percent non-white student population.
Until this year, Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Ala., had a placard on it that encouraged students to “Never by word or by deed do anything to discredit the name of this great man.”
I’m not sure what more students could do to discredit the name of a man who killed his fellow countrymen in the name of slavery.
For its part, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to change the name of Robert E, Lee High School, as well as Jefferson Davis High School and Sidney Lanier High School, in July of this year. Since 2014, nearly 40 schools named after Confederate leaders have changed their names.
Following the death of George Floyd, the Southern Poverty Law Center has said that 59 Confederate symbols have been removed from public spaces. That’s nice—until you remember that there are currently over 1,700 Confederate symbols still occupying public space.
It’s almost like this country is trying to send a message or something.