Confederate-Named High School Renamed to Honor Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

By Corey Mitchell — July 23, 2020 1 min read
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A high school in Fairfax County, Va., named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee will be renamed John R. Lewis High School in honor of the late civil rights icon and long-time Democratic congressman.

Lewis, whose beating by Alabama state troopers in the 1960s helped galvanize opposition to racial segregation, died this month at age 80. The name change will be effective for the upcoming school year.

Amid the national Black Lives Matter protests, schools named for leaders of the Confederacy, both public and private, have come under renewed scrutiny and picked up strong momentum for name changes. Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam urged school districts across the state to change school names that honor Confederate figures, declaring that names reflect a “broken and racist past.”

The Fairfax County school board voted unanimously to change the school name Thursday. Lewis, the former chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, served more than 30 years in the U.S. House of Representatives in a Georgia district that includes the city of Atlanta. Two schools in Lewis’ district, one each in Atlanta and DeKalb County, are named for him.

Fairfax County has at least three other schools named for Confederate figures.At the beginning of June 2020, at least 208 schools in 18 states were named for men with ties to the Confederacy, an Education Week analysis of federal data found. Since late June, at least six of the Confederate-named schools have changed names.

Currently, there are still more than 50 schools in the United States named for Lee.

Photo: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., is seen near the statue of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the Capitol Rotunda before an October 2019 memorial service for the late Rep. E. Cummings, D-Md. Lewis, a towering figure of the Civil Rights movement, died earlier this month. (Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly via ZUMA Press)

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.