A Virginia School Board Votes to Restore Confederate Names to Two Schools

Last Friday, the Shenandoah County school board in Virgina voted 5–1 to reinstate two schools’ previous, Confederate names. The board voted 5–1 to ditch the problematic names only four years ago, after the murder of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests across the nation in 2020.

According to the Alabama-based Equal Justice Initiative, the rural Virginia county is the first in the country to restore Confederate names to schools that removed them four years ago.

The decision to change Stonewall Jackson to Mountain View High School and Ashby Lee to Honey Run Elementary caused uproar in the local community at the time: many thought the decision was secretive and many perceived the name change as yet another battle lost in the “culture war.”

The New York Times reported that Tom Streett, one of the board members who voted to restore the Confederate names, revered General Stonewall Jackson during the hourslong school board meeting.

“When you read about this man—who he was, what he stood for, his character, his loyalty, his leadership, how Godly a man he was—those standards that he had were much higher than any leadership of the school system in 2020,” Streett said.

General Stonewall Jackson literally died fighting to uphold the brutal, immoral system of chattel slavery: it is s doubtful at best that his “standards” included even allowing Black students to go to school. To endorse chattel slavery is to endorse anti-Black racism. To honor any person who aligned themselves with the Confederacy is to honor someone who is, by definition, anti-American. The Confederacy seceded from the United States because they did not want to be a part of a nation where slavery was outlawed.

In fact, many schools across the U.S. that are named after Confederate officials like Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby were named during the 1950s and ‘60s—up to 100 years after the end of the Civil War—as a means of resisting racial integration of public schools.

It’s 2024. We’ve had countless debates spanning multiple decades about whether naming schools and buildings after Confederate officials is “remembering history” or invoking racist imagery from the Antebellum South. The fact of the matter is, we can learn about these people in history books and simultaneously not antagonize the Black community by honoring people who fought to keep them enslaved. Naming anything after a Confederate is saying that Confederate values are worth commemorating. Racism is never deserving of celebration: instead, we should learn about these men and how the racist systems that they stood for continues to impact Black Americans today.

Updated: May 21, 2024 — 3:02 pm