The Fairfax County, Va. School Board voted Oct. 26 to rename a high school that previously bore the name of a Confederate army major general.
J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va. will be renamed Justice High School,. (Photo/change.org)
J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Va. will be renamed Justice High School, but the decision didn’t come easily, according to The Washington Post.
After nearly five hours of debate, the measure to rename the school passed by a 7 to 4 vote. The board was divided between those who were against honoring someone who fought to preserve slavery, and those who saw the name change as erasing history.
James Ewell Brown Stuart of Virginia was born in 1833, according to the Civil War Trust. He graduated from West Point in 1854, where he met and became friends with slave owner and future Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Stuart, known as “Jeb,” resigned from the U.S. Army in 1861 to join the Confederate Army after Virginia seceded from the United States. Stuart fought under Stonewell Jackson for a time, and was killed in the Overland Campaign of 1864.
The new name of the school was not favored by local residents. A survey of the community favored dropping “J.E.B.” and renaming the school Stuart High, WJLA reported, but the school board voted that option down. Justice was the community’s second choice, the Post reported.
Attempts to rename the school after local former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, local World War II hero Col. Louis G. Mendez Jr., and civil rights leader Barbara Rose Johns also fell flat.
Supporters of renaming the school hoped to shed its Confederate legacy by stripping Stuart’s name from the building. Justice, they said, was a way to honor Marshall, Mendez and Johns together.
“We are doing the right thing by changing the name to one that reflects and celebrates values we hold dear,” said Sandy Evans, a board member who supported the name Justice High School.
An emotional debate to rename the school has raged in the school district for two years, the Post reported. It started after the Fairfax community urged the school district to rename the school in the wake of the executions of nine Black parishioners at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., according to the Post. White supremacist Dylann Roof was formally sentenced to death earlier this year for the slayings.