Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax, Virginia, is changing its name to John R. Lewis High School.
The Fairfax County school board voted Thursday to remove the name of the Confederate war general and replace it with the name of late US congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis.
Sean Perryman, president of the Fairfax NAACP, celebrated the unanimous decision via Twitter.
The vote to rename Robert E. Lee High School to John Lewis was unanimous.— Sean Perryman (@SeanPerryman3) July 23, 2020
Anything is possible.
CNN reports representatives from school board and 11th largest school district in the US say, effective this fall, the school will be called John R. Lewis High School.
The name change was spearheaded by Representative Tamara Derek Kaufax who is on the board in Springfield, near Washington DC where the school is located.
She proposed the idea to remove Lee’s name from the school back in February. Once the initiative was put into motion, the school board held a one-month open call for new names along with a virtual town hall meeting and public hearing before the vote.
“We heard from so many community members, students, and alumni about the amazing things that John Lewis did during his life. And I think many people would be proud to have that as the name of their school. I think it would be an honor for the community as well as I hope, the congressman’s family,” said Rep. Kaufax.
Rep. John Lewis marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and protested segregated buses with the Freedom Riders. He gave a keynote address at the historic 1963 March on Washington and led protestors in the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march.
Lewis died last Friday after losing his battle with cancer at 80.
Although Lewis’ death spurred an outpouring of grief nationwide, his name had made the Fairfax County school board’s short list before he passed.
Lewis was born to Alabama sharecroppers and went on to serve in Congress for over three decades, working to end segregation and racial discrimination in the Deep South.
At a public hearing Wednesday night, the community gathered to discuss the name change in honor of Lewis.
Those gathered cited Lewis as a figure who had the courage to take action in the face of injustice and did so all his life despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
“Change starts at the lower levels of ourselves, then our community then our county,” said a community member according to WJLA-TV.
“We owe it to the trailblazers of history to continue to fight for equality in any way that we can.”
The removal of names and symbols aligned with the Confederacy is a call for America to examine its racist past and amplify the vital cause of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The nation is redesigning its physical and cultural landscape to better reflect the future it is trying to build— one where Americans are forever inspired to the sentiment of civil rights champions who weren’t afraid to stand up for what is right.
“The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” said Rep. Kaufax in a news release regarding the school’s name change.
“I believe that John Lewis’ extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come.”
The Fairfax County school board’s decision has inspired calls to rename other schools named for Lee in Texas and Louisiana.