Public School In Illinois Drops Thomas Jefferson From Name Due To Slavery Links

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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A public school in Illinois has decided to drop Thomas Jefferson from its name due to the U.S. founding father’s ties to slavery, numerous sources reported.

Thomas Jefferson Primary School in Peoria will instead be named after Rev. C.T. Vivian, a nonviolent civil rights leader who organized some of the movement’s first sit-ins in the late 1940s and was a close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., Journal Star reported Monday.

The Peoria Public School board voted unanimously to change the name of the school. Ernestine Jackson, a former board member and a member of the Peoria NAACP, offered the only discussion on the matter.

“We think that the name change is something that needs to happen when our children start reading about the history of Thomas Jefferson, and the kinds of things he did with his slaves and things that were happening at that time,” Jackson said, according to the Journal Star.

Jackson, who knew Vivian since the age of 10, said the school “ought to be named after someone with integrity.” She said Vivian was a “man of passion” and integrity. 

“We think that if you were gonna name a school it ought to be named after someone with integrity that treats people correctly and right, that doesn’t’ get involved with a teenage slave to have children,” Jackson continued.

The district is also considering changing the names of five other schools, which are named after Charles Lindbergh, Roosevelt Magnet, Harrison, Washington Gifted and Calvin Coolidge, respectively, according to the Journal Star.

According to Jefferson’s Monticello, Jefferson enslaved more than 600 people throughout his life. He had been a public opponent of slavery, and was involved in legislation that he hoped would end slavery, but profited directly from slavery.

Numerous districts across the country that are named after founding fathers or other American historical figures have considered changing their schools’ names over ties to slavery and racism.

A Virginia school board voted in December to change the name of its schools named after Woodrow Wilson, John Tyler, and James Hurst because they held racist views or, in former U.S. President Tyler’s case, because he sided with the Confederacy.

San Francisco’s school board was considering changing the names of 44 of its schools over ties to racism and sexism. Schools named after former presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were up for renaming, but the board voted in April to suspend the effort until all students returned to classrooms full time. (RELATED: San Francisco School Board Walks Back Efforts To Change ‘Racist’ School Names)