- The Montgomery County Board of Education voted to rename two high schools to honor civil rights figures.
- A board member who spoke with the community said they wanted to hear names that resonated with the demographics now.
- According to the Alabama DOE, 80 percent of students in Montgomery are Black.
School board officials in Montgomery, Alabama, voted to remove the namesakes of confederate leaders and replace them with civil rights figures at two of their high schools.
After nine months of discussion, The Montgomery County Board of Education voted 5-2 in favor of Brown’s recommendation of renaming two of their high schools to civil rights figures on Thursday, according to local news outlet WFSA.
“I’m glad we were able to put it on the table and move it forward so we can get this change going in a positive direction,” Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Melvin Brown told the outlet.
According to the outlet, Robert E. Lee Highschool will become Dr. Percy Julian High School — swapping the Confederate general for the famed Black chemist.
The outlet noted that Jeff Davis High School will become JAG High School, an acronym for Judge Frank Johnson, Ralph Abernathy, and Robert Graetz. Johnson was a Black jurist who fought against segregation, Abernathy was a Black civil rights leader and Graetz was a local white pastor who helped the movement.
Brown’s recommendation comes from a list of 10 suggested names compiled by an outside committee, according to WFSA.
Board member Lesa Keith told WFSA that names like “Freedom High School and Liberty Highschool” would have been less divisive.
“By naming something one color to another color, it’s almost like we’re trying to beat each other,” Keith told WFSA. “If it were about unity, then the words “liberty” and “freedom” would have worked.”
Board member Arica Watkins-Smith told the outlet that the community “wanted to hear names that really resonated with the demographics of people who are here now, to give our children pride.”
According to the Alabama Department of Education, Montgomery County, almost 80 percent of students are Black.
“Our job is to make our spaces comfortable for our kids. Bottom line is we’re going to make decisions based on what our kids needs may be, not necessarily on sentiment around whatever nostalgia may exist,” Brown told WFSA.