At a time when contentious debates are raging over building names and statues honoring confederacy figures, a predominantly Black elementary school in Mississippi will be renamed after Barack Obama, NBC News reports.
Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary, named for Jefferson Davis, will become Barack Obama Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary in Jackson, Mississippi starting next school year, said Davis Elementary PTA president Janelle Jefferson, at a Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night.
The announcement means the school will be the first in the state named after the nation’s first black president, breaking from a pattern among other area schools named after Confederate leaders, the Clarion-Ledger reports. Administrators will also honor the wishes of its students who chose Obama. About 98 percent of current Davis students are black.
“When you realize who this school is named for, I think that it’s a positive thing to be a part of this movement,” Jefferson said, adding Obama was the students’ “number one choice” because “they were alive during his administration and felt that he shared their principles.”
Students, parents, school staff and community members submitted nominees before an Oct. 5 vote led to Obama as the favorite choice. School buildings must be named “for persons of good character and prominence who have made outstanding contributions to the school system,” according to the school board’s facility-naming policy. Only “compelling reasons” are acceptable for a renaming.
The change is significant for other reasons as well.
“It’s important not just in the symbolism of an elementary school,” Jake McGraw, public policy coordinator the University of Mississippi’s William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation told NBC News,”but here we’re having a real genuine examination of our history in an elementary school — within the broader school system in Jackson — which is exactly where it needs to happen.”
It’s unknown how expensive the name change will be, NBC reported.