Parents and children in Mississippi have chosen to rename an elementary school serving predominately black students in honor of the first black president, changing the moniker from one honoring a Confederate leader.
Davis International Baccalaureate (IB) Elementary School in Jackson will be renamed in honor of Barack Obama at the start of the 2018-19 school year.
School stakeholders voted on Oct. 5 to approve the name change, PTA President Janelle Jefferson announced at a Tuesday evening meeting of the district’s board of trustees.
“The school community wanted to rename the campus to reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves,” said Jefferson.
Discussions began in August to re-name the magnet school from one honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis. More than 95% of the school’s students are black.
“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to be enslaved named after him,” PTA president Jefferson told the board of trustees.
As part of a three-week process, staff and students at the school offered suggestions for new names and then held a vote.
“I wholeheartedly agree with the name,” Board President Camille Simms said at Tuesday’s meeting.
School board member Jed Oppenheim applauded the school for taking the initiative.
“I think this is a powerful narrative,” he said.
Jefferson, the PTA president, told the Associated Press they would conduct “some very aggressive fundraising campaigns” to pay for new signs and stationery with Obama’s name.
A nationwide movement to remove symbols of the Confederacy was reenergized this summer after the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The initiative was opposed by President Donald Trump, among others, who said he was “sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”
Davis IB Elementary is one of Mississippi’s top-ranked schools, but state officials have urged Gov. Phil Bryant to declare the greater Jackson Public School system in a state of emergency and allow the state to take over management.