After a successful year-long campaign to end a school’s association with Thomas Jefferson due to his slave ownership, an elementary school in New Jersey is changing its name. According to NJ Advance Media, the new name for the Jefferson Elementary School in South Orange, New Jersey is being replaced with Delia Bolden Elementary School to honor the first Black woman to graduate high school in the area.
The student body has selected the new name from a list of choices. While the other names had no reference to a person living or dead, many of the proposed names were of individuals related to the local area. “Ruth Bader Ginsberg Elementary School” and “New Legacy Elementary School,” were the alternative choices that were included.
The initiative was proposed and led by students, the school claims. Faculty members have also been vocal in their support and assistance to the cause. At a June meeting on the issue, board member Qawi Telesford said: “I want to make that point that Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 slaves. He freed two while he was alive and seven after he died, which basically means I have a 1.5% chance of being free in Thomas Jefferson’s world. So, I am not thankful to him. I am thankful to the people who made sure that I could actually be free and be on the board with you today.”
The decision was applauded by the school’s superintendent, said a report on Fox News. Superintendent Ronald Taylor said: “Seeing the work that (the students) did, I think, exceeded the expectations of all of us who participated in that conversation, when that was the final outcome, to really engage our students and make this a real-life civics lesson with really strong connections to governance.”
In the United States, it has become a popular trend to rename schools named in honor of historical figures thought to be malicious or insufficiently moral. After it was decided the historical figures either owned slaves or supported slavery, the Waukegan Board of Education in Chicago have proposed last year the renaming of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Daniel Webster Middle School.
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