Almost 200 public and charter schools across the country named after prominent Confederate leaders are being asked to rename their schools, suggesting that the use of such names represents hate rather than heritage.
In San Diego, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez wrote a letter to the San Diego Unified School District asking for officials to change the name of an elementary school that honors Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
“The flag in particular, and anyone associated with this army, in general, have been associated with intolerance, racism and hate, none of which have a place in our schools,” Gonzalez wrote, according to San Diego’s Fox 5 TV.
Gonzalez added that the school is in a “vibrant, multiethnic community with a strong African-American presence” and should have a name that coincides with that ather than celebrating Robert E. Lee, writes Emma Brown for The Washington Post.
A school in Jacksonville, Florida saw the name of their school change last year. The name had honored Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate leader who was also one of the original leaders of the Ku Klux Klan. The school had been given the name when it opened in 1959 as a whites-only institution as a protest against the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. the Board of Education decision. The majority of the school is currently African-American.
The situation is similar in Houston, where efforts have begun to push the district to rename any and all schools named after Confederate leaders. While some say the names represent a period of slavery, others argue that the names are an important part of the state’s history.
“They need to let this die because it’s divisive to black people, brown people, and it represents that period in history which was a bloody period; and a lot of people say it wasn’t about slavery but it was,” said Linda Scurlock, who is collecting signatures to change the name of Dowling Middle School.
A Vocativ analysis has found 188 such public and charter K-12 schools across the country named for either prominent Confederate leaders or places named after such Confederates. In the 2012-13 school year, 123,389 students were in attendance at these schools. However, more schools may be out there named for lesser-known Confederates that did not make the list.
The push to eliminate symbols of the Confederacy have seen an resurgence after the shooting of nine parishioners inside a church in South Carolina two weeks ago. The Confederate flag is being removed from state capitols and license plates, and companies such as Wal-Mart, Amazon, Sears and eBay have agreed to stop selling the Confederate battle flag.
The push to remove Confederacy-related school names is difficult, as such symbols can be held in high esteem by nostalgic alumni.