6 High Schools Named After Confederate Leaders That Need To Be Renamed Immediately
Since the Charleston, South Carolina shooting last week, the Confederate flag has been lowered in the South Carolina's statehouse grounds, and retailers like Walmart, eBay, and Amazon have banned merchandise that includes the logo. But now it's not just the flag that is coming under fire — across the U.S., many are calling for the removal of many different kinds of Confederate commemorations. Unsurprising to anyone living South of the Mason-Dixon line, but perhaps a bit of a shock to any Northerners, memorials to the confederacy and their leaders are still very prominent. There are counties, cities, road names, schools, museums, statues, even national parks and more that pay homage to this part of American history that many feel should be replaced by names that are not steeped in racist symbolism, recalling the atrocities of slavery in America.
While searching for places and things throughout the U.S. that still bear the names of confederate leaders, it is especially disturbing to see so many public schools whose names represent confederate generals and former Ku Klux Klan affiliates. Of all places, the institutions in which students are given their most basic education should be entirely rid of any kind of positive reference to symbols of racism and bigotry. Of course the issue of either renaming or removing commemorations of the confederacy is urgent for anywhere they still exist, but it seems particularly important to disassociate public education with anything relating to the ostensible defense or glorification of the men who fought to defend slavery.
Here are several schools that represent many of the names that are still honored across much of the South.
Nathan Bedford Forrest High School: Jackson, FL
This high school in Jacksonville, Florida is named after confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest. General Forrest is famously attributed to the following Civil War battle cry: “I wish none but those who desire to be actively engaged. Come on boys, if you want a heap of fun and to kill some Yankees." He was also a top leader in the Ku Klux Klan. I can hardly think of a better reason to not name a school after someone than KKK affiliation.
Robert E. Lee High School: Tyler, TX
Robert E. Lee is one of the more famous figures from the confederate South, who served as the only confederate president. Lee continued to battle against Ulysses S. Grant even when Southern defeat was clearly imminent, and for this reason, he goes down in history as a rather blood-thirsty character. There are quite a number of schools in the U.S. named after Lee: I count at least 10 in the Southern U.S. It's high time that public school systems look to someone other than Lee for their school names. It's not only offensive, it's also apparently very unoriginal.
Robert C. Byrd High School: Clarksburg, WV
It's almost hard to believe this one still exists (almost). Robert Byrd was a Democratic Senator from West Virginia, but he was also a member of Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s. While Byrd later called his time with the Klan an "embarrassment," that doesn't exactly make up for the fact that he participated in and recruited others to the KKK. Change the name of this school. Now.
Henry W. Allen School: New Orleans, LA
Henry Watkins Allen was the confederate governor of Louisiana from 1864 to 1865. He was unable to continue in a military capacity after he was injured in battle, and ultimately fled to Mexico from Louisiana after the confederacy lost the Civil War. Allen is credited with reviving the economy of confederate Louisiana during his tenure, but he did so in the name of preserving slavery.
Wade Hampton High School: Greenville, SC
Wade Hampton grew up very wealthy, and once the Civil War began in earnest, he was immediately asked to be a colonel in the Southern army, despite his total lack of military experience. He is known for his participation in the particularly brutal Battle of Trevilian Station (which the Union ultimately won). Hampton is your run of the mill confederate "hero," whose name should not be posted anywhere except museum signage.
Stonewall Jackson High School: Manassas, VA
Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was a teacher before he joined he confederate army, and was considered one of their greatest heroes. There are many, many public commemorations to Jackson south of the Mason-Dixon line. Multiple schools, citites, roads, and counties are named for him; which means a lot of different municipalities need to start brainstorming new names for their public spaces.
At this juncture in our history, where racially motivated act of violence occur often enough to dominate months worth of news and commentary, it is far past time that every region of the U.S. recognizes the confederacy for what it was: a group dedicated to the preservation of slavery and proponents of white supremacy. A school is the last place where this message should be muddled. Students should not be exposed to these indefensible ideologies in any context that does not fully and accurately contextualize them. Giving schools the names of confederate leaders sends the message that these are names to be proud of, instead of acknowledging that these are the names of men who perpetrated the same sort of hateful violence we just saw in Charleston.
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