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A predominately Black Virginia school made a move for higher learning on Monday (June 18). The Richmond Public School Board voted six-to-one to rename J.E.B. Stuart Elementary. It is now Barack Obama Elementary School, WTVR-TV reported.

Earlier this year, the board decided to change the name, after the school called attention to Stuart, who was a Confederate general. Students, parents, staff and community members submitted ideas for new names before choosing seven finalists. Among the finalists’ were other influential African-American leaders, including Oliver Hill, Barbara Johns and Henry Marsh, according to WTVR. Obama eventually won the vote after getting overwhelming support from the community.

The name change is particularly significant for the elementary school’s students —African Americans make up about 95 percent of the student body. The change also signifies a disconnection from a painful history for African Americans: the elementary school was the only school that was named after a Confederate general in Richmond, which was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

There is a nationwide move to rename schools that originally honored Confederate figures. The city of Petersburg, Virginia renamed J.E.B. Stuart, A.P. Hill, and Robert E. Lee Elementary schools in February, WTVR reported. A.P. Hill will become Cool Spring Elementary; Robert E. Lee will be renamed Lakemont Elementary; and J.E.B. Stuart will be Pleasants Lane Elementary effective July 1.

Also, a Mississippi school originally named after Jefferson Davis was renamed after Obama last October, The New York Times reported.

The trend has also happened as Confederacy monuments have been torn down, with communities vowing to replace them with statues honoring Black history heroes. A statue of J. Marion Sims —the gynecologist who experimented on black women—was torn down in New York’s Central Park in April. Several protestors who wanted Sims’ statue removed are fighting for statues of prominent Black women to be erected.

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Angela Davis
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