After the past couple of years of social change happening across the nation, it appears that officials in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are looking to make some changes of their own by renaming a handful of educational institutions named after known slaveowners and those who supported racist ideologies.
NBC News reports that many have been working towards this change for over a year now following a 2020 ruling by the Cleveland City Council to officially get the ball rolling. A group was established by the district’s Board of Education, consisting of both students and staff alike, to identify establishments that could use some much-needed updating. Following approval of the naming criteria back in September, the board agreed to review the names of seven institutions. Elementary schools named after Albert Bushnell Hart, Louis Agassiz, Luis Muñoz Marín, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, in addition to John Marshall High School plus James Ford Rhodes High School, are expected to have new names by the 2022-23 school year if things go as planned.
More on the schools and the oppressors they were named after below, via NBC News:
“Although Jefferson opposed slavery as the nation’s third president, he owned about 130 slaves when he died in 1826, had children with an enslaved woman, Sally Hemings, and believed Black people to be racially inferior to white people, much like Hart, who was born in 1854. Agassiz, a biologist born in 1807, relied on scientific racism to assert that white people are biologically superior to Black people. Muñoz Marín, Puerto Rico’s first elected governor, fervently opposed and suppressed the Puerto Rican nationalist movement, according to a report from the working group. And Henry, a Founding Father, enslaved Black people throughout his adult life and said that not doing so would be a ‘general inconvenience.’”
In regards to the high schools, former US Chief Justice John Marshall owned slaves for most of his life and Cleveland-born historian James Ford Rhodes believed giving Black people the right to vote would be considered an attack on civilization.
The board’s appointed group also identified 11 other schools for potential review as well. They even made suggestions on prominent African American leaders that could make fitting replacements, including Ohio’s first Black congressman Louis Stokes and the state’s first Black congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Given the school district’s demographic when it comes to students — 64.1% Black, 16.7% Hispanic/Latino, 15% white and 4.2% other — we think those options would definitely make for a good call.
New names won’t be approved until March, with January and February being used to get public input on the matter from Cleveland residents. School district spokesperson Thomas Ott confirmed this by stating, “We’ve made it clear to the public that the board won’t make any changes without getting feedback from the community.”
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