The name “Redskins” has been an incredibly controversial topic of late with the likes of President Barack Obama weighing in on changing the name of the NFL team. Yet this country also boasts public schools named after Confederate leaders. It is every person’s inherent right to get a free public education in the United States, so why does this country name schools after men who fought against this privilege for all? Why do we still find schools named after prominent Confederate leaders in the 21st century?
Throughout the South, there are public schools named after prominent Confederates leaders. In Northern Virginia alone there are four high schools named after generals — two in Fairfax County, Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart, one in Prince William County, Stonewall Jackson, and one in Arlington, Washington-Lee High School. All of these schools lie within 35 miles of our nation’s capital, and all three of these schools have predominantly minority student bodies.
One particularly egregious example of an inappropriately named high school is Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Florida. Forrest was not only a Confederate general, but also the first “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan.
Omotayo Richmond, a student at Forrest High School, has started a petition on Change.org to change the name of his high school. With the help of over 150,000 signatures, Richmond is petitioning the Duval County School Board to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, which was named in 1959 during the height of the civil rights movement and during the effort to peacefully integrate public high schools throughout the South. It is obvious that the intention of naming the school after the founder of the Ku Klux Klan was to intimidate African-American students who lived in that school community. It’s time for the intimidation to end.
This is not the first time that the school board has been called to change the name that was originally recommended by the Daughters of the Confederacy. In 2007 the board voted against changing the name 5-2.
Ironically, today 54 percent of the student body is African American.
Changing the name of this high school and all other public schools that brandish the name of Confederate leaders and supporters should be a priority for school boards around the country. Universities that receive public funding have been mandated to eliminate the degrading use of Native American names and mascots. This same push needs to be applied by school boards around the country to rid public schools of names such as Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
Why should students have to be subjected to attending schools named after men who fought against their rights to be considered citizens? It has been almost 150 years since the end of the Civil War and yet our country still has memorabilia honoring people who seceded from the values of our nation. By maintaining these names for public institutions, we are giving validation to people who fought against equality and freedom for all.
The United States is referred to as a “melting pot” because the races and cultures that make up the fabric of this country are incredibly diverse. Students of any minority demographic should not be subject to learning about this country’s history at schools named after white supremacists. Students are required by law to attend these public schools in their local communities. It is simply unjust to have them receive diplomas with the names of men who fought against the freedoms of the minorities within the student body.