A Richmond, Virginia, elementary school named after a Confederate general will now be renamed to honor the country’s first black president, Barack Obama.
“In the former capital of the Confederacy, we decided to stop honoring an individual who fought to preserve slavery – and to begin honoring our first African-American president instead,” superintendent Jason Kamras tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The school, formerly named J.E.B Stuart Elementary, has already adopted its new name on the school website.
The Richmond School Board reportedly began the process of renaming the elementary school in April, which included five public input sessions and suggestions accepted through an online portal. The process involved input from the school’s students, teachers and administrators.
The school population, made up of 90 percent black students, nominated their top three names, including the country’s first black president. After the school’s administration recommended renaming the Virginia school after the former president, the school board affirmed the decision in a 6 -1 vote on June 17, the Richmond-Times Dispatch reports.
The lone dissenting vote came from the very school board member that represents the school’s district, Kenya Gibson. She says she hoped to delay the vote in favor of considering names honoring Richmond’s local leaders instead.
“Without a doubt, Barack Obama’s presidency was incredible and deserves recognition,” Gibson wrote on her Facebook page. “But here in Richmond, we stand in such a unique place because of our history. We have so many local leaders that deserve recognition.”
The move comes amidst debates nationally on how to deal with the vestiges honoring America’s Confederate past in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville rally.
During the “Unite the Right” rally, a woman was killed during protests by white supremacist groups who opposed the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. Kamras says this is the Richmond School Board’s way of achieving some due justice.
"One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King is the following: 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,’” Kamras shared with Yahoo Lifestyle. “Last year, the Richmond School Board bent that arc a little closer towards justice.”
According to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, there were 103 schools across the U.S. named after Confederate leaders in February. Following the decision to drop the Confederate general’s name, Virginia is now home to 15 of the schools honoring prominent Confederates.
Kamras hopes that renaming the school will mark the beginning of a new era for the former capital of the Confederate states by honoring a leader who represents a more inclusive America.
“I'm thrilled that our students...will now have the opportunity to attend a school that honors a leader that represents the great promise of America," Kamras wrote in a statement.
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