A Virginia school board renamed Jefferson Davis Middle School after a slave and war hero Wednesday night.
The Hampton School Board voted 6-0 to change the name of Jefferson Davis Middle School to Cesar Tarrant Middle School, reported the Daily Press.
“It’s interesting to me that Cesar Tarrant is one of a long line of individuals of African descent who have served and defended and fought for our country, even when our country did not grant them the full rights of citizenship,” said Phyllis Henry, one of the board members, to Daily Press. “He is therefore a role model for many generations of patriotic African-Americans, and I think a very fitting name for a school which will be revived from a name that served as Cesar Tarrant Elementary School.”
Public opinion regarding the renaming of both Jefferson Davis Elementary School and the neighboring Campus at Lee shifted drastically between 2016 and 2017. Opponents of the decision to rename the institutions outnumbered supporters three-to-one in 2016, however, Hampton held two more hearings in 2017 upon request from the Hampton Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Southern Christian Leadership Conference after the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally.
At these latter hearings, supporters of the name changes outnumbered opponents by nearly a six-to-one margin.
“Public sentiment was decisively different in 2017,” board chairman Jason Samuels told the Daily Press. “We as a board have made a decision that we believe was in the best interest of the community, and this vote demonstrates that we were unanimous in our decision.”
Anticipated costs of renaming both the Lee and Davis buildings totaled between $20,000 and $30,000.
Hampton City Schools is not the first district to rename Confederate schools. A Virginia high school tried to distance itself from the Confederacy by dropping three letters from its J.E.B. Stuart High School name to become Stuart High School. (RELATED: Virginia School Drops 3 Letters In Name To Try To Erase Confederate General Reference)
“Tarrant was one of seven pilots appointed by the Virginia Navy Board to serve in the Revolutionary War; four were slaves,” said the Hampton City Schools in a news brief. “He guided ships in and out of the Tidewater coastal areas. Tarrant remained loyal to the American forces and was granted his freedom after the war.”
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