Virginia High School Changes Namesake From Robert E. Lee To Rep. John Lewis
A school board is renaming a high school in Springfield, Virginia, after the civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, who died last week.
The Georgia congressman’s name will replace that of Confederate Gen. Robert E Lee.
The Fairfax County School Board voted unanimously to give the honor to Lewis on Thursday.
The longtime civil rights activist fought for voting rights, equality and racial justice for his entire career. In 1964, he helped organize the historic March on Washington, alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
In December, Lewis revealed that he had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
All members of the school board initially voted to strip the school’s former name in June amid ongoing protests over systematic racism, police brutality and the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.
That same month, protesters in Virginia called for a statue of Lee that had long stood on Monument Avenue in the state’s capital of Richmond to be removed.
The Fairfax County School Board began discussing changing the Springfield school’s name after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced that his administration would be removing the statue of Lee.
The school board was considering using Lewis’ name for the school weeks before his death.
The congressman was one of several historical figures being considered, including former President Barack Obama, human rights activist Mildred Loving and labor activist Cesar Chavez.
The public was allowed to submit comments on possible new names for the school over the course of the month.
The name of the school should reflect the “diversity and multiculturalism” of the community, Fairfax School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson said in a statement.
“Rep. Lewis was a champion of the Civil Rights movement, and our Board strongly believes this is an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero,” the statement read. “We will also honor his life’s work by continuing to promote equity, justice, tolerance and service in the work that we do.”
The new name takes effect at the start of the 2020-2021 school year.
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