Everyone remembers the Titans, but soon, we’ll have one less reason to remember T.C. Williams–the namesake of the Alexandria, Va. school where the football team immortalized by the Denzel Washington-led film calls home.
NBC 4 reports that members of Saturday’s 2021 graduating class played a huge role in pushing for T.C. Williams High School to become Alexandria City High School. Williams, a former superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools, was a staunch segregationist.
“Changing our school name from one that represents hatred, racism and bigotry to one that represents unity, diversity and inclusion is absolutely reflective of who you are as a class,” current superintendent Gregory Hutchins said during the ceremony.
According to the Alexandria City Public Schools website, Thomas Chambliss Williams served as superintendent from the mid 1930s to 1963. ACPS called Williams a “supporter of perpetuating segregation, and a man who did everything possible to slow down the process of integration in Alexandria.”
Williams waited five years to comply with an integration order, NBC 4 reports, and even fired a school district employee for joining the NAACP.
The school built in his name opened in 1965 and was integrated in 1971, which is the year in its history that Remember the Titans covers.
Lorraine Johnson, president of the school’s Black Student Union, told The Washington Post that she was unaware of Williams’ racist legacy until she learned more about it from Ra’Alim Shabazz, a teacher at the school.
The Post reports:
“This year ends the hypocrisy of having a school that is supposed to be inclusive under the auspices of someone who wouldn’t even want to see the diversity of our student body,’ Shabazz said. The current graduating class of 888 seniors, according to administrators, is about 70 percent students of color.
Still, it took months of school board meetings and multiple rounds of voting to make it happen.”
Despite the challenges that Johnson and her fellow students faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they still managed to band together and lead the charge to have Williams’ name removed from the school. Johnson told the Post that she felt that the pandemic helped their effort, as it gave them the students time to organize. She said last year’s widespread racial justice movements also provided the necessary momentum to move things forward.
“Now, the class of 2022 will get to enjoy Alexandria City High School and the new name,” Johnson said. “We’re okay with that. It’s nice to know that we started it.”
T.C. Williams isn’t the only racist whose name will be booted from an Alexandria public school this year.
From the Post:
“Matthew Maury Elementary, is also changing its name — to Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School, honoring a local Black educator who died last year, replacing the name of a Confederate veteran who tried to reestablish the plantation system in Mexico. Both new names go into effect July 1.”
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