Richmond Decides To Rename Its Last Confederate School

Rob Shimshock | Education Reporter

The Richmond, Va., school board voted Monday night to rename its last Confederate-named school.

An 8-1 vote enabled the Richmond School Board to rename J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School — named after a Confederate general — at a work session, reported The Richmond Times-Dispatch. The school board failed to rename the school in 2003 when it voted 5-1 in favor of changing the name, with three abstentions.

“I’m thrilled that we are taking this step,” board member Kenya Gibson, who supported the initiative, said. Gibson represents the district that includes the school. “These names reflect the segregated past that we have come from.”

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras suggested naming the school after Oliver Hill, a Richmond civil rights lawyer.

“Our nation, though the most perfect in the history of civilization, is stained by truly awful — even evil — history, but I pray that we always tell all of our history, even the bad,” said board member Jonathan Young, who cast the sole vote against the renaming.

Students’ parents and relatives tended to agree with Young.

“I want to see money spent on things that would actually impact people — like homeless shelters and education — rather than something you just drive by and see,” parent Antoine Nelson, who has had three kids attend the school, said. “The money can be spent on bigger issues compared to what people are just talking about.”

“History is good and bad,” grandparent of a J.E.B. Stuart student George Pearson said. “If it weren’t for history, we wouldn’t know how to go forward.”

Tom Hartman, the only speaker during Monday’s public comment session, supported the majority of the board.

“I stand in no judgment of the man. I stand in judgment of the symbol,” he said. “Take a stand for future generations. Take a stand for what is right.” (RELATED: Virginia School Drops 3 Letters In Name To Try To Erase Confederate General Reference)

The school board will now hold a public comment period lasting at least one month and host two public hearings. Richmond School Board’s scenario closely reflects that of Stuart High School in Fairfax, Va., which decided to drop the “J.E.B.” from its name in July.

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