The new names of Stonewall Jackson Middle and High Senior schools are not yet known. But the Prince William County community has plenty of suggestions.
On June 22 and 25, the Prince William County School Board held community input sessions, allowing residents to suggest new names for both schools, located near Manassas, to the schools’ naming committees.
The naming committee for Stonewall Jackson Senior High School consists of school board Chairman Babur Lateef, Brentsville District Member Adele Jackson, Gainesville District Member Jennifer T. Wall, and Coles District Representative Lisa Zargarpur, while the committee for Stonewall Middle School consists of Chairman Lateef, Brentsville District Member Jackson, and Gainesville District Member Wall.
The naming committees have no limitations as to what name suggestions they can accept, but they do have selection preference for ‘those individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of education, especially within Prince William County,’ according to school board documentation.
Some of the most popularly suggested names for the schools are as follows:
- Arthur Reed High/Middle School: Arthur Reed worked as a security assistant at Stonewall Jackson High School for a number of years, and has been nicknamed the ‘godfather’ of the school. There is currently a petition being spread on social media in support of renaming the school after Reed, which has gained over 1,000 signatures. Student Representative to the school board and current Stonewall Jackson High School senior, Ben Kim, has also stated his support for naming the school after Reed.
“If we are to name our school after a person, it ought to be Mr. Arthur E. Reed,” stated Student Representative Kim in a tweet.
“It [naming Stonewall Jackson High School after Reed] will serve as a statement to every teacher and faculty member in Prince William County that we recognize their hardwork,” said Spogmai Anwar, a former student sentaor representing Charles J. Colgan High School.
Many current and former Stonewall Jackson High School students, however, do not support naming the school after Reed due to his work in the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the military.
“Naming the high school after Mr. Reed, someone who was in the DEA, a department responsible for the mass incarceration of Black and Latinx people, and someone who was in the military, is counter to the movement against policing right now,” said Lubna Azmi, a former Stonewall Jackson High School student and current Johns Hopkins University student.
- Ibram X. Kendi High/Middle School: Ibram X. Kendi is a Stonewall Jackson High School alumnus, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist, and the founding director of the Boston Univerity Center for Antiracist Research. There is currently a petition being spread on social media in support of renaming the school after Kendi, which has gained over 30,000 signatures.
“In changing the name of Stonewall Jackson High School to honor a graduate of the school who is actively fighting this country’s legacy of systemic racism and inequity [Kendi], PWCS would demonstrate how far our county has come and how willing we are to continue that growth,” said Langston Carter, a decendant of enslaved people owned by Stonewall Jackson.
“In 2000, I graduated from a VA high school named after a Confederate General. Now, there’s talk of changing the name. There’s campaign for Ibram X. Kendi High School, and I’m in shock. But I’m happy old Stonewall Jackson is probably raging in his grave,” tweeted Kendi.
- Lucinda Griffin High/Middle School: Griffin was a young enslaved girl who, at the First Battle of Manassas during the Civil War, ‘risked her life to assist an elderly woman,’ according to the petition to rename the high school after her, which has garnered over 1,000 signatures.
“It [renaming the school after Griffin] also would say to each and every student who attends that school that they matter, that their contributions matter and that the hope that history might remember them and their honorable deeds is within their destiny,” stated the petition to rename the school after her.
“Lucinda was a forgotten hero while Stonewall Jackson was a remembered traitor, her story should be in this country’s history book,” said Karen Griffin during the June 25 community input meeting.
- Celestine and Carol Braxton High/Middle School: Celestine Braxton was one of the teachers hired to integrate Prince William County Schools and a former educator of 33 years. Carol Braxton was one of the first African-Americans to become a marine at a segregated camp.
“Carol Braxton meets the historical consideration requirements and is one of the first blacks to become a marine at a segregated camp and served in the Marine Corps. Celestine Braxton meets the historical consideration requirement and is one of the teachers hired to integrate Prince William County,” said Richard Jesse during the June 25 community input meeting.
- Unity High School: The name is meant to represent unity within the school, something that is a ‘big part’ of Stonewall Jackson High School according to Student Representative Kim.
“I would like to propose the name Unity High School as it represents what the school stands for,” said Melanie Pineda-Flores, a Stonewall Jackson High School alumni and incoming freshman at the College of William & Mary.
Sonya Sotomayor, Canon Branch, and Bull Run High/Middle School were also suggested.
No members of the school board or naming committees have announced a preference, but school board Vice Chairman Loree Williams told Potomac Local News that ‘preference should be to the Board Member’s district to where the school resides, the constituents of that district and students of the school.’
The renaming of the schools comes in light of the recent killings of African-American men by police and nation-wide protests. Prince William County Schools Superintendant, Steven L. Walts, called for the renaming of the schools in his Action Plan to Combat Racism.
“We can no longer represent the Confederacy in our schools. To this end, the renaming of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School should begin immediately, pursuant to the policy of the School Board. It is an insult and an affront to our students, especially in schools where the majority of the students are students of color,” Walts’ plan states.
The board is set to vote on the renaming during their meeting on Monday, June 29.
“Regardless of what we end up with, I think it will be certainly – in my personal belief – better than where we are now. I will encourage members to look at other ways to honor and reflect and restate the story of our great community,” said Chairman Lateef.