Virginia Board Votes to Rename Schools Back to Honoring Confederate Military Leaders

The move comes nearly four years to the day of George Floyd’s police killing.

A worker attaches a rope as they prepare to remove the statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson from its pedestal on July 1, 2020, in Richmond, Va. Steve Helber/AP

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After the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, dozens of schools bearing names that honored Confederate figures renamed themselves. The move came against a flood of similar efforts aimed at addressing the nation’s stark racial disparities—at least on paper.

But nearly four years to the day of Floyd’s death, a Virginia school board appears to have changed its mind. On Friday, the Shenandoah County Public School Board voted to restore the names of two public schools—Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School—to their original names; Mountain View will return to being called Stonewall Jackson High School, and Honey Run Elementary School will return to the name Ashby-Lee Elementary School. They appear to be the first schools in the country to make the reversal.

These original names honor Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Turner Ashby, three Confederate military leaders who led the fight to preserve the right to enslave people in the United States. The reinstatement of the schools’ original names comes as GOP-led states, including Virginia, seek to severely strip down Black history and diversity initiatives from their schools.  NBC News reports that the Coalition for Better Schools, a local conservative group, was behind the push to restore the Confederate names. (A similar initiative was unsuccessful in 2022.) 

“We understand that the decision to rename these schools was made in response to discussions surrounding Confederate symbols,” the group wrote in a letter to the board last month. “However, we believe that revisiting this decision is essential to honor our community’s heritage and respect the wishes of the majority.”

Community members, Democratic politicians, and activists alike have condemned the vote as a step backward. 

“As Richmond’s Mayor, I have worked to remove the last remaining relics of the Confederacy from our city,” tweeted Mayor Levar Stoney. “This decision rolls back progress in our Commonwealth.”

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