Students Urge J.E.B. Stuart H.S. Name Change

July 8, 2015 7:32 PM32 comments

An online petition signed by 338 people as of Wednesday morning is urging Mason District School Board member Sandy Evans to spearhead a name change for the J.E.B. Stuart High School in the Sleepy Hollow section of greater Falls Church. J.E.B. Stuart was a prominent Confederate general during the Civil War, and the petitioners contend that when the high school named for him was built in the 1950s, citizens deliberately chose the name of Confederate soldiers as a means of protest against court orders to racially integrate the schools. “The use of Confederate names was used to intimidate and shame black students,” the petition states.

In the wake of the murder of nine black members of an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, moves have been swift to remove images of the Confederate flag throughout the south, and the J.E.B. Stuart petition is in that spirit. It includes a list of schools around the U.S. where name changes have occurred out of sensitivity for racial equality. Rising Stuart senior Anna Rowan has spearheaded this petition effort.

In addition to J.E.B. Stuart, the petition calls for the removal of all Confederate-related school names in Fairfax County.

Comments

comments

32 Comments

  • Absolutely not. Would you also change the name of schools named after our patriotic heros and founding fathers who were slave owners?

    • I disagree; I say good! More power to them. It’s a small community–their own school–that they are working with, and it should be an edifying experience. They are imitating their elders and working out what they see as problems. Now, if the school can host debates where no one calls the other bigots, racists, self-victimization fools, hypersensitive, hypocrites, or liars…then our elders and leaders could learn something from these students. It’s our elders that can’t figure out how far to go with this debate over Confederacy symbols without using such terms, and that deserves an “absolutely not.”

  • Vociferous1

    “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” ~ Edmund Burke

  • Lisa McQuail

    Here is the petition itself, which lists the history behind the naming of Confederate and Segregation themed schools. Please sign if you want to close the book on racism and segregation in Fairfax County Schools! : https://www.change.org/p/sandy-evans-mason-district-fairfax-county-school-board-rename-confederate-and-segregation-themed-public-schools-in-fairfax-county-virginia

    • No one should sign this. What are you going to do next change the name of Robert E. Lee High School and those of our founding fathers who were slave owners. Thomas Jefferson was a Virginian, and a slave owner. Want to change the name of Thomas Jefferson High School. You had one nut in South Carolina commit a horrific crime. But get over it and while you may not like some of our heritage it is what it is…so drop this ridiculous petition.

      • Tom z – a lot of us went to Stuart and never learned anything about the school’s namesake or the history of the school’s naming. It’s precisely because we are now educating ourselves on these issues that we’re supporting current Stuart students and community members who favor a change in the school’s name to one more befitting of the school’s values and diversity. The bottom line is that we want the school to be more welcoming for all students, not rewrite history. Why do you find that so threatening?

        • It is not threatening but instead an over-reaction to what admittedly is a horrific crime. You may not like it but Stuart, Lee, Jackson et all are part of our heritage. Granted it is offensive to some, I will admit, that but changing school names is an over-reach. I am opposed to any name change for these reasons. If you change Stuart’s name, you need to change a lot of others because you will find that even some non-Confederates were nevertheless sympathetic to the slavery cause and were slave owners themselves. Removing confederate flags and other symbols is one thing that is legitimate but changing school names is extreme to me and should not be done. I would not sign such a petition and would recommend that others also not sign.

          • While the petition indeed makes reference to the Charleston shootings, to me the fundamental question is whether students and community members at Stuart or other schools think their school’s name reflects their values, or instead serves to celebrate the defense of slavery by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and/or reflects the School Board’s pronounced hostility to integration when the school was named in the late 1950s. Personally, I don’t see this as a matter of ideological purity, where every single name now gets subjected to a historical litmus test, but instead as a matter of civic engagement involving people trying to do the right thing for students. FCC, where I gather you live, named its middle school after Mary Ellen Henderson, who worked to integrate the schools. So, again, why can’t those who live in greater Falls Church explore a name more aligned with their values?

          • We will have to agree to dis-agree. This is an over-reach and I am not about to support changing the name of this school or others based on the reasoning put forth in this case. If we follow your logic, we will need to change the names of many, many schools and I think this is not the right thing to do because what’s next remove statues in historic parks, etc.

          • The reasons for the naming of the school according those who authored this petition have not been confirmed. The only thing I have been able to find was that there was a 3 year period in the 1950s in which schools were named for historically relevant persons, who were known for their accomplishments and were no longer living. That is when Stuart was named. I can find nothing that reflects the claims of the petitioners. And when asked for documentation to verify their claims…crickets. If I find anything that verifies their claims, I will post it and back down. In the mean time, I’m interested in the truth. If we’re going to start renaming schools, let’s make sure we are making these decisions based on truth.

          • I would submit there are at least three compelling reasons to change the school’s name.
            First, regardless of whatever other good qualities he may have possessed, JEB Stuart was a Confederate general who fought against the United States to preserve a system based on slavery and white supremacy. As Americans, living in an increasingly diverse society, why would we want to continue to honor the Confederacy?
            Second, my research on the context in which the school was name reveals the following: (1) FCPS did not provide blacks with a high school education until the mid-1950s; (2) FCPS opened a segregated, blacks-only high school in 1954, the year of the Brown decision; (3) as FCPS and other jurisdictions in Virginia were under pressure from the federal courts to desegregate schools in the wake of the Brown decision; FCPS changed its historic policy of naming high schools after their locations to name them after individuals; (4) three schools that had tentatively been named Vienna HS, Franconia HS and Munson Hill HS in the planning stages, were then renamed in 1958 as Madison HS, Lee HS and Stuart HS instead (i.e, two Confederate generals and a drafter of the Constitution that many in Virginia claimed in the 1950s had been ignored by the Supreme Court in requiring school desegregation; (5) a leading supporter of the change in policy was W.T. Woodson, who was then the Superintendent of FCPS and favored, at best, a “gradualist” approach to school desegregation in which the schools would not have been fully integrated until 1971; and (6) all of this occurred during the same period as other states in the South were resurrecting Confederate names and symbols as part of their resistance to school integration (examples of this are legion and easily located). Do the School Board minutes from the period expressly recite that the schools were named to stick it to the Federal government and send a message that FCPS and other jurisdictions in Virginia opposed school integration? No – and you would not expect them to, either, as there was ongoing litigation throughout this entire period, and documents so phrased would have been “smoking guns” in the hands of plaintiffs seeking to compel compliance with Brown. But, overall, the record support an inference that FCPS decided to name schools after Confederate generals in 1958 to reflect the unhappiness of many whites to integration and make incoming black students feel unwelcome.
            Third, regardless of the prism through which you choose to view historical events, there are minority students attending Stuart today who believe the name makes them feel like “second-class citizens” in their own school. When I try to put myself in their shoes, and think about how a black student would feel attending a school named after a Confederate general, a child of Cuban refugees might feel attending a school named after Castro, or a child of Holocaust survivors might feel attending a school named after members of the Third Reich, I have to think we can do better. Whatever emotional attachment I have to the name because it’s my alma mater pales in comparison to giving the school a name that reflects the values and aspirations of current students and community members.

        • I went to Stuart and knew exactly who the namesake was. Those of us who want the name to remain do not find it threatening, we find burying history and pretending it didn’t exist sacrilege. But the same question could be asked of those who want the name changed; why do you find the name so threatening? Stuart wasn’t a plantation owner, he was a loyal Virginian trying to help his state hold onto it’s sovereignty from a Federal government that was over reaching.

          • Hi, Margaret – My point was that, if you know much about JEB Stuart or the naming of the school, it was likely information you acquired outside of school. I went there four years and am certain that I was never taught anything about Stuart or the reasons why the school was named after a Confederate general. So when people claim that advocates of a name change are trying to “bury history” and “pretend it didn’t exist,” I think they are getting it backwards. We are actually paying mroe attention to history than we did as students and taking that into consideration in reflecting upon whether the school’s name reflects the values of the community and promotes the best learning environment for students.

        • Patrick McConville

          I went to Stuart also, great school, though i was a terrible student. Let’s stop being so damn PC and worry about other issues like the economy, illegal immigration, jobs, and socialist/Marxist who want to destroy the education system and the country.

      • That’s exactly what they want to do; change the names of all the schools named after any confederate.

    • Patrick McConville

      You will never close the book on racism and segregation in FCS, want to know why? Because it’s now white’s & christians that are the new victims. Find another ‘struggle’ to root for Lisa… Move On !!

  • Perfect idea! ESPECIALLY considering that Jeb Stuart HS is predominantly minority race.

    • Patrick McConville

      Stuart was predominately white when i attended, now the entire area is mainly non-white hispanic. The push to rename it after a black does no justice to those who live nearby. I’m for renaming it if the petition ever wins approval to Stoners High, which is non-offensive to anyone. At least that would of been a perfect name when i was there. :))

      • They’re changing it to Peace Valley, the name of the street

        • Patrick McConville

          I’m still for Stoners High, think i’ll start a STUPID online petition like LISA did just to jerk her chain. This is why i HATE LIBTARDS they naively want to change names of things they find offensive in their pea sized brains.

          Yes amy, i’m familiar with the street name. And because of the idiotic PC crowd they’ve started naming everything after local streams, roads and locals.

          • You are really ignorant huh? Well you don’t go to this school any more, so why fight for or against it?

  • FallsChurchCitizen

    What shall we rename Lee Highway?

    Rather than rename the high school, perhaps they could focus on improving its sub-par administration and performance.

    • Symbols are powerful, especially when they can be imprinted on a school community every day. Schools are aspirational environments where children and young adults learn of the larger world around them and form the views that will help them shape their lives.

      Perhaps it is more important to focus on the suitability of a school name and the use of a Confederate General Mascot and competing in school rivalries as Raiders. Compared to that, driving down Lee Highway seems pretty inconsequential. I am not sure that would be the case though if the state had little confederate flags on every Lee Highway sign, but that isn’t the case here.

  • I am an alumnus of Stuart and the statement made in this article says, “the petitioners contend that when the high school named for him was built in the 1950s, citizens deliberately chose the name of Confederate soldiers as a means of protest against court orders to racially integrate the schools. ‘The use of Confederate names was used to intimidate and shame black students,’ the petition states.”
    As far as I can find, this statement is unfounded. I have been in a discussion about this for several days and those making this contention have not produced documentation of this claim when asked. Right or wrong, this is our history and sweeping it under the rug so no one sees won’t change history. He was a proud Virginian who was loyal to his home state. In his own words, he wasn’t sure if he was right or wrong:

    “For my part, I have no hesitancy from the first that, right or wrong, alone or otherwise, I go with Virginia.”

    He was loyal to his home state, not a cause or the politics of the day. He was first and foremost, a Virginian. Most who fought for the south weren’t fighting for slavery. Most were farmers and landowners who did not own slaves, but were fighting to keep the North from taking their land away. And if we change the name of every historical person who ever owned a slave, then start with Washington, DC. UVA was built by Jefferson, a slave owner, who likely used slaves to build the university. AND UVA actually had slaves and faculty was allowed to bring their personal slaves on campus. Shall we close UVA? And don’t get me started on Northern slavery. Neither North or South was righteous when it came to slavery.
    It’s history, in the past. Leave it there and move on. If we keep history untouched, unedited, if you will, we can see how far we’ve come and not make the same mistakes again. As one poster on my alumni discussion board said, “Re-writing history is a sin.” I agree. We need to preserve it so future generations will ask questions and learn from their country’s past.

    • Very well stated….excellent response!

    • Forget this petition….move on to other more important matters like educating students…rather then getting caught up in trying to erase Virginia heritage and history.

    • No proof about why Stuart HS was named after a respected Confederat General? Maybe the people choosing the name did not want to leave a clear trail of why the name was chosen, or maybe it was just a poor choice.

      What an odd coincidence, then, that so little thought was given to the unintended consequences that might have come from naming a school after a good man who strongly identified with his beloved commonwealth regardless of whether it was right or wrong in the defining moments when it withdrew from the Union and sided with the interests of the slave owners in a life or death battle principally over that issue. A good man who distinguished himself in service to the Confederate cause and became memorable for that reason.

      What proof does anyone need about why the school name was chosen when deciding now whether the name should be changed because of the associations people have with the Confederacy and segregationist actions in Virginia history? (And, for those looking for examples of segregationist history where the Fairfax and Falls Church local governments have acted responsibly to acknowlege the past in a constructive way, look no further than the new small park for the Tinner Hill Historic site in Falls Church that is being maintained by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority).

      To the extent that the school name carries with it its own historical significance at this point, my suggestion would be to change the school name now and place some historical signage on school grounds to let everyone know that one more piece of coerced symbology has been set aside.

    • Patrick McConville

      Libtards make sheite up as they go along, i guarantee you that name was never “deliberately chosen”. The person who posted that reference in the petition needs to come forward with proof, not innuendos.

  • A group of current Stuart students wants to change the name. The petition is in support of these students. Sociological and psychological research points to the harm done to children and youth when they are confronted with ethnic stereotypy, such as negative views of the potential and achievement of people of their race. Regardless of the loyalty of the historical figure for whom the school is named, he indeed fought against the United States for a cause that was pro-slavery. How would this make you feel if you were not white? What does it say about our school system and its hopes for all of its students? This petition is not about street names, statues, or other public spaces. It’s about schools where children are supposed to be learning and achieving for their futures.

  • I would submit there are at least three compelling reasons to change the school’s name.

    First, regardless of whatever other good qualities he may have possessed, JEB Stuart was a Confederate general who fought against the United States to preserve a system based on slavery and white supremacy. As Americans, living in an increasingly diverse society, why would we want to continue to honor the Confederacy?

    Second, my research on the context in which the school was name reveals the following: (1) FCPS did not provide blacks with a high school education until the mid-1950s; (2) FCPS opened a segregated, blacks-only high school in 1954, the year of the Brown decision; (3) as FCPS and other jurisdictions in Virginia were under pressure from the federal courts to desegregate schools in the wake of the Brown decision; FCPS changed its historic policy of naming high schools after their locations to name them after individuals; (4) three schools that had tentatively been named Vienna HS, Franconia HS and Munson Hill HS in the planning stages, were then renamed in 1958 as Madison HS, Lee HS and Stuart HS instead (i.e, two Confederate generals and a drafter of the Constitution that many in Virginia claimed in the 1950s had been ignored by the Supreme Court in requiring school desegregation; (5) a leading supporter of the change in policy was W.T. Woodson, who was then the Superintendent of FCPS and favored, at best, a “gradualist” approach to school desegregation in which the schools would not have been fully integrated until 1971; and (6) all of this occurred during the same period as other states in the South were resurrecting Confederate names and symbols as part of their resistance to school integration (examples of this are legion and easily located). Do the School Board minutes from the period expressly recite that the schools were named to stick it to the Federal government and send a message that FCPS and other jurisdictions in Virginia opposed school integration? No – and you would not expect them to, either, as there was ongoing litigation throughout this entire period, and documents so phrased would have been “smoking guns” in the hands of plaintiffs seeking to compel compliance with Brown. But, overall, the record support an inference that FCPS decided to name schools after Confederate generals in 1958 to reflect the unhappiness of many whites to integration and make incoming black students feel unwelcome.

    Third, and most importantly, regardless of how you assess the historical events, there are minority students attending Stuart today who have stated that the name makes them feel like “second-class citizens” in their own school. When I try to put myself in their shoes, and think about how a black student would feel attending a school named after a Confederate general, a child of Cuban refugees might feel attending a school named after Castro, or a child of Holocaust survivors might feel attending a school named after members of the Third Reich, I have to think we can do better. Whatever emotional attachment I have to the name because it’s my alma mater pales in comparison to giving the school a name that reflects the values and aspirations of current students and community members.

    • What the teachers, parents, and school administrators should be saying and teaching students is to look at JEB Stuart’s life, dedication to, and support of the Commonwealth of Virginia in its entirety…..rather than dwelling on and creating tension just about the Confederacy. You are doing a dis-service and it is a big mistake to go down this slippery slope with this one-sided narrow viewpoint. If you start looking into the lives of everyone a school is named after you surely will be quite surprised and appalled over what you find out. Many folks who are respected founders of our country and who are widely respected were slave owners, were sympathetic to the south and to slavery, etc.

      • @tom z – In an earlier post, you said we will have to agree to disagree, and on that score we can agree. In familiarizing myself with the efforts to rename the school, I’ve learned that there are many current and recent Stuart students, parents and teachers who believe the existing name has a negative impact on students. They do not believe they are doing a disservice to their peers by expressing their concerns, but instead empowering them to engage in a constructive dialogue about the school’s future. In my opinion, the reference to a “slippery slope” is just a red herring intended to discourage them and anyone else from engaging in such efforts.

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