An elementary school in Virginia abandoned its name honoring a Confederate general and was renamed Tuesday to honor former President Barack Obama instead.
The Richmond Public School Board voted 6–1 to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School to Barack Obama Elementary School – the top choice amongst seven others – and the results were soon tweeted by the local television station.
“#BREAKING #RPSBoard votes to rename JEB Stuart Elementary as @BarackObama Elementary School – students helped choose out of 7 finalists,” CBS 6’s Brendan King tweeted Tuesday. “Vote was not unanimous, 6-1.”
War on Civil War history
In the midst of the Confederate statue and memorial controversy earlier this year – when many social justice activists trashed and removed historical sites commemorating Civil War heroes from the South – the Richmond School Board voted 8–1 to drop the Northside school’s name honoring the Confederate general and replace it with one of seven others on a list.
“This is the former capital of the Confederacy, and J.E.B. Stuart is an individual who fought to preserve slavery,” declared Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras, who served as Obama’s education adviser in 2008, according to the New York Times. “And I couldn’t think of a more fitting change in the arc of history to have a school named after our first African-American president.”
The school board’s decision comes in the wake of the attack on the South’s preservation of its Civil War history, which erupted last year in various locations across America.
“The vote reflects part of the national conversation and action that schools, communities and cities in the United States have taken in recent years to redress the country’s Confederate and slave-owning history – particularly after a deadly white nationalist rally [met by hostile protesters] in Charlottesville, Va., last August brought renewed attention to dozens of Confederate monuments around the country,” the New York Times’ Christine Hauser noted. “Monuments to Confederate figures have been removed from streets and public places, [while] protests have been held over the rights of citizens to display Confederate flags.”
The final vote to name the school after Obama came from the predominantly black student body of 400, which was prompted to pick three from a list of seven.
“Students, parents, staff and community members all submitted ideas for the school's new name,” WTVR-TV reported. “About 95 percent of the Fendall Avenue school's student body is African-American.”
A large portion of the choices led students in the direction of replacing the white Civil War legend with a more recent black champion of the civil rights.
“Many of the new school name options represent influential African-American Civil Rights leaders, including Barbara Johns [a civil rights activist], Oliver Hill [a civil rights lawyer], and Henry Marsh [Richmond’s first black mayor],” CBS 6’s Brendan King informed. “The top three finalist names on Monday night were Barack Obama [America’s first black president], Northside [representing the black community around the school], and Wishtree [named after a children’s book celebrating diversity].”
The seven names – and their descriptions – appearing on the flyer prompting students to vote for three included:
- Northside Elementary: This choice would reflect the pride that we have in the neighborhood and location of our school.
- Wishtree: There is a book with this same title and it tells the story of a tree that has watched different families move in and out of the area for years. The story is about celebrating different cultures in a diverse neighborhood.
- Oliver Hill: He was a Civil Rights attorney who lived here in Richmond, VA. He helped many people and played a huge role in ending the idea of “separate but equal.”
- Barbara Johns: She was a Civil Rights leader. She led a student strike at her high school in Farmville, Virginia to bring attention to the poor conditions at her school. Eventually, thank [sic] to brave acts like this one, things got better for the students at her school.
- Albert Norrell: He was a long-time Richmond educator, whose family of educators served the Richmond community for over a hundred years.
- Henry Marsh: He was a Civil Rights leaders [sic] and the first African-American mayor of Richmond.
- Barack Obama: He was the first African American president of the United States of America.
Forgetting the past …
J.E.B. Stuart – short for James Ewell Brown Stuart – whose name will soon be all but forgotten at the elementary school, served in the Confederate Army as a general in Virginia and was close to one of the Civil War’s most celebrated heroes.
“According to History, Stuart was a ‘dashing figure known for his flamboyant style of dress and bold tactics’ and was often involved in General Robert E. Lee’s inner circle,” TheBlaze recounted. “Stuart led his men on ‘two successful circumnavigations of the Union Army of the Potomac in 1862,’ which garnered his reputation as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Confederate Army.”
Stuart’s dynamic role in a number of the Civil War’s most significant battles will soon be forgotten when the school opens its gates to start the 2018 schoolyear as Barack Obama Elementary School.
“Some blamed Stuart for the Confederacy’s Gettysburg defeat after reportedly failing to provide Lee with enough information on the positions of Union soldiers,” TheBlaze’s Sarah Taylor informed. “Stuart was 31 years old when he was killed at the Battle of Yellow Tavern in 1864.”
Trending: Renaming schools, forgetting the Confederacy
Even though the former Stuart Elementary was the only school in Richmond, Virginia – the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War – that has been named after a Confederate general, it is not the only school in the commonwealth to oust its name donning the name of a Civil War legend from the South.
“Earlier this year, the City of Petersburg, [Virginia], voted to rename three Confederate-named schools. “Effective July 1, 2018, A.P. Hill will be renamed Cool Spring Elementary; Robert E. Lee will be renamed Lakemont Elementary; and J.E.B. Stuart will be renamed Pleasants Lane Elementary.”
As Confederate generals’ names are being eradicated from an increasing number of campuses, Obama’s name appears to popping up on on more and more signs donning public schools’ names.
“This is not the first school to be named after Obama, but it appears to be the first school [in Virginia to be] renamed from a Confederate general to the 44th President,” King pointed out.
And elementary schools are not the only public schools to purge Stuart’s name.
“Last year, the Fairfax School Board voted to remove J.E.B. Stuart’s name from a high school in Falls Church, Va., and replace it with Justice,” Hauser recalled.
The trend of eradicating the memory of notable Confederates with that of Obama has also been witnessed further south in Mississippi.
“The name change in Richmond was not the first time that a school has been stripped of its Confederate nomenclature and replaced with that of the former president,” Hauser stressed. “In Jackson, Miss., last year, Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary School – which was named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America – was also renamed after Mr. Obama.”
Tearing down Richmond’s past?
The significance of Richmond’s school board voting to replace the name of a Civil War cavalry general with Obama’s could be ushering in the floodgates to wash away the city’s Confederate past.
“A city of 223,000 people, Richmond was the former capital of the Confederacy, and its streets, public plaques and monuments reflect the history of the period,” Hauser stressed. “A city commission is expected this year to present recommendations about what to do with monuments to such figures as Jefferson Davis or Gen. Robert E. Lee, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said Tuesday.”
Stoney also emphasized that the Stuart Elementary was the only school in Virginia’s capital named after a Confederate legend and insisted that the school board’s action to change its name represents “progressiveness” and “diversity” of Richmond, where 48 percent of the population is African American.
“Richmond has always been front and center in the growth of the South,” he said.
The leftist mayor essentially believes that getting rid of the Civil War names at schools, such as Stuart Elementary, rights the wrongs of history’s past.
“Mayor Stoney said that the vote corrected a “serious contradiction” in having students – mostly of color – attend a school named after a figure who fought to preserve slavery,” Hauser noted. “The process took several months. He said the city would consider whether other schools should be renamed, as well.”
Even the one and only dissenter of changing the Confederate name to one of the eligible seven new names wanted the school’s new sign to don the name of a black champion of civil rights.
“Kenya Gibson – the sole school board member who voted against the renaming – said she had wanted more time to discuss the possibility of naming the school after a local civil rights leader,” Hauser explained. “But she still supported the result.”
With numerous prestigious universities recognizing their connection to slavery of late, many historians are concerned that the names of Confederates on campus – or in the classroom – are also slated to be eradicated.
“In recent years, more than a dozen universities – including Brown, Harvard, Georgetown and the University of Virginia – have acknowledged their historical ties to slavery.”
Conservative critics fear that schools adopting Obama's name to replace Confederate generals opens the door to indoctrination up to th e former president's politically correct, anti-white social justice worldview, as well as ushering in his ultra-leftist agenda promoting abortion, LGBTQ "rights," immigration reform, climate change, gun control, pro-Palestinian/anti-Israeli perspective, and anti-"Islamophobia" campaigns.