U.S. Markets closed

School honouring Confederate general renamed Barack Obama Elementary

Mythili Sampathkumar
Another US school has changed its name from a pro-slavery Civil War historical figure to one that honours 44th President Barack Obama: REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

An elementary school in Richmond, Virginia has changed its name from that of a Confederate-era general to the nations first black president, Barack Obama.

The Richmond Public School Board voted six to one to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School, named after a Civil War general who fought to keep slavery in the American South, to Barack Obama Elementary School.

Approximately 95 per cent of the school's students identify as African-American and the name was chosen from seven finalists, which included options to honour civil rights activists Barbara Jones, Henry Marsh, and Oliver Hill.

According to the ballot, posted by the local CBS News The three finalists included Mr Obama's name, naming the school after the neighbourhood, Northside, or naming it Wishtree. The latter selection refers to a children’s book “that tells the story of a tree that has watched different families move in and out of the area for years. The story is about celebrating different cultures in a diverse neighbourhood”.

The change in name ushers in a new era not only for the school but for the city, which once served as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, during which nearly 1.3m American soldiers died.

The move follows a nationwide trend to remove Confederate general’s statues and monuments from public places, as well as renaming some areas or streets in recent years, in the wake of events such as the massacre of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church by the white man Dylann Roof in 2015. In August 2017 violence - in which a woman was killed - broke out in Charlottesville Virginia, amid white nationalist demonstrations over removal of Confederate General Robert E Lee's statue from a local park.

Petersburg, Virginia, just south of Richmond, has also voted to rename three of its public schools that had borne the name of Confederate generals in favour of names reflecting the neighbourhoods where they are located.

This is not the first school named after the 44th President. In Jackson, Mississippi a school board voted last year to change its name from president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis to honour the first African-American commander-in-chief.

Also earlier this week, schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma shed their old names. A school named after controversial 15th-century explorer Christopher Columbus will now honour Dolores Huerta, who formed the National Farm Workers Association with fellow labour rights activist Cesar Chavez.

Another Tulsa school which had been named after slave owner and trader Jean-Pierre Chouteau will now be called Wayman Tisdale Fine Arts Academy after a local basketball player who became a successful jazz musician after a career in the NBA.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights legal advocacy organisation, estimated that at least 100 schools are named after Confederate and pro-slavery historical figures, mostly in the US southeast region.