Rename Confederate and Segregation themed public schools in Fairfax County, Virginia
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Dear Ms. Evans:
We, the undersigned, are a group of JEB Stuart alumni and other concerned citizens who think it is past time to rename Fairfax County high schools that bear the names of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart and prominent segregationist W.T. Woodson, especially since these schools were intentionally named in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s to fuel racial tension. The undersigned include alumni from some of the earliest graduating classes of JEB Stuart High School, along with some of its most recent graduates and current students as well: we are community elders standing united, side by side with our youth.
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. You can clearly see from this revelation that the problem was created by the FCPS School Board and ultimately must be corrected by the FCPS board, and sooner rather than later.
The students that walk the hallowed halls of our school in 2015 are a more diverse group than ever, and they deserve a school name that represents something more germane to where we are today, not represented by Confederate history that was recycled in the 1950’s for a hateful purpose: to hurt and shame black youth that were, by court order, integrated into our county’s white school system. Perhaps one could give the 1950s and 60s School Board the benefit of the doubt and say that they were reflecting the majority view of the Fairfax County community at the time, however, the FCPS School Board must lead, rather than follow, especially in matters of Civil Rights, which should be governed by visionary justice, not public opinion.
After the Charleston massacre we cannot abide by this school name that was given in 1959 by neo-Confederates in hateful defiance of desegregation during Virginia's shameful massive resistance movement. The students that walk the hallowed halls of our school in 2015 are a more diverse group than ever, and they deserve a school name that represents something more germane to where we are today, not represented by Confederate history that was recycled in the 1950’s for a hateful purpose: to hurt and shame black youth that were, by court order, integrated into our county’s white school system.
We have launched a well-funded Facebook campaign. You can be assured that national groups such as the NAACP and Black Lives Matter will be standing with us. We already have over 1000 views of our page: https://newhive.com/pioneer/jeb-stuart
As we mentioned, it has come to our attention that J.E.B. Stuart High School (and Robert E. Lee High School) were named after Confederate Generals and given Confederate logos in 1959 as an intentional backlash against the 1954 US Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision as part of the “Massive Resistance” anti-desegregationist movement in the South (http://www.vahistorical.org/collections-and-resources/virginia-history-explorer/civil-rights-movement-virginia/massive ). The apparent intent was to make black families and their children feel as uncomfortable as possible attending desegregated schools in Fairfax County.
It has also come to our attention that one of the architects of this “Massive Resistance” movement in Fairfax County was Wilbert Tucker Woodson, Chairman of the Fairfax County School Board from 1929 to 1961. In contrast to the Brown decision calling for immediate integration, Woodson believed that a “gradualist” implementation:
“Moreover, he presided over the system throughout the Great Depression and through the early years of integration following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education, which declared the "separate but equal" school policy of southern and border states to be unconstitutional. On the integration question, Mr. Woodson was a gradualist, urging that black and white children begin going to school together in the first grade and continue together thereafter”. http://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1983/07/14/wt-woodson-fairfax-schools-ex-chief-dies/586b7f6c-997a-4022-a2ec-44a79ff5fa35/
“In Fairfax County in August 1959, the Fairfax County School Board, under pressure of lawsuits, presented a desegregation plan that wouldn't achieve full integration until 1971”. http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2004/mar/03/fairfaxs-long-road-to-integration/
We believe that Woodson and others named these three High Schools with “Confederate Themes” and in WT Woodson High School’s case, in support of segregation to intentionally shame Black students, in defiance of the US Supreme Court Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling. Some learned legal practitioners even argue that this original naming and its original context and continued use is unconstitutional due to the potential harm that it causes minority students. Specifically, the naming of these Fairfax County schools could violate the US Constitution’s provisions regarding lack of government free speech rights, Thirteenth Amendment protections against "Badges of Inferiority," and Fourteenth Amendment claims under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. http://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1340&context=wmborj
In closing, we would like for you to consider that other school districts around the United States took action long ago to change Confederate and Segregationist names, and the trend continued up to the present. Below are a few of the 23 Confederate and Segregationists school names that were changed in New Orleans in the 1990s:
-Jefferson Davis Elementary School was renamed after New Orleans' first black mayor, Ernest "Dutch" Morial.
-P.G.T. Beauregard Junior High School was renamed Thurgood Marshall Middle School after the first black Supreme Court justice.
-Marie Couvent Elementary School was renamed for civil rights lawyer A.P. Tureaud.
-William O. Rogers Elementary School, named for a general school superintendent who didn't believe blacks should be educated after the 5th grade, was renamed George O. Mondy School after the first black firefighter in New Orleans.
-Robert E. Lee Elementary School was renamed for Ronald McNair, the black astronaut killed in the 1986 Challenger explosion.
(Source: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/06/before_lee_circle_new_orleans.html )
A school in Florida was stripped of its Confederate/KKK name recently. “Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville will soon be known as something else after the community made clear to the Duval County Public School Board that they wanted the school changed. The board voted unanimously Monday night to remove the Forrest name.” (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/12/16/school-named-after-kkk-grand-wizard-to-be-renamed-finally/ )
We urge you to take action now and change the names of these schools immediately!
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