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Should Confederate Figures Remain in School Names?

Updated: Mar 25

Recently, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) found that more than 240 existing schools across the United States are named after Confederate leaders. This begs two questions: why are they named this way, and what effect does this have on racial minorities? 


The Equal Justice Initiative asserts “that many schools were given Confederate-themed names in the 1950s and 1960s as Southern states mounted what they termed ‘Massive Resistance,’ a coordinated effort by governors, legislators, and other white leaders to resist the racial integration of public schools.” The EJI references the retaliation of Southern leaders to Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, where state-sanctioned segregation in public schools was deemed unconstitutional in violation of the 14th Amendment.  


Another example provided by the Equal Justice Initiative references the 1955 creation of Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama, which ensued only a year after the court case struck down school segregation. 


The consequences of these institution names reverberate through the present, creating difficult environments for minority students to grow and succeed in. Forcing students to learn under people who propagated the movement to preserve slavery fosters division and a sense of alienation. The buildup of these tensions often leads to intense debates about the viability of changing or keeping the name. 


Safeguarding the learning environment in a way that allows for all students to have equal opportunity is fundamental to education consistent with the values of our nation. Each of these schools should take a careful look at their names and determine whether representing Confederate figures accurately reflects the beliefs of their administration or if they are needlessly alienating their students.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.



Sources


Anderson, Melinda D. “Attending a School Named After a Confederate General.” The Atlantic, 7 Nov. 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/11/attending-a-school-named-after-a-confederate-general/545186/. Accessed 8 July 2023.


“Brown v. Board of Education (1954) | National Archives.” National Archives, 22 Nov. 2021, https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/brown-v-board-of-education. Accessed 8 July 2023.


“The Truth About Confederate-Named Schools.” Equal Justice Initiative, 16 Sept. 2020, https://eji.org/news/the-truth-about-confederate-named-schools/. Accessed 8 July 2023.

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