Equity & Diversity

A School in the Former Capital of the Confederacy Is Renamed for Barack Obama, the Nation’s First Black President

By Corey Mitchell — June 19, 2018 1 min read
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The school board in Richmond, Va., will change the name of a school that commemorates a Confederate general to honor the nation’s first black president.

The district will rename J.E.B. Stuart Elementary as Barack Obama Elementary School. Members of the school’s community submitted ideas for a new name for the 390-student school and Obama was the top choice.

Like many of the schools named for Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, most of the students at Stuart Elementary are black. At Obama-named schools across the nation, more than 90 percent of students who attend the namesake schools are black and Latino. Fewer than 4 percent are white.

The Richmond school wasn’t the first to drop the name of a Confederate hero in favor of Obama. Last fall, a Jackson, Miss., magnet school named for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, was renamed for the nation’s 44th president.

Despite a wave of recent campaigns to remove the names of Confederate leaders from public schools, roughly 140 buildings in K-12 school districts still honor figures from that foregone era, an Education Week Research Center analysis of federal education data from the 2015-16 school year found. The analysis found that the Confederate-named schools are located in 15 states, but two-thirds are located in just five states, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana.

That total number of Confederate-named schools has dropped in recent years, as district leaders have moved to change the names of dozens since June 2015. That’s when a white supremacist shot and killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. That mass murder, along with the death and injuries at a 2017 white supremacist rally and counter-protest in Charlottesville, Va., sparked public debate about honoring men who waged war to maintain slavery.

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Photo Credit: President Barack Obama speaks before signing the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” on Dec. 10, 2015, in Washington.

--Susan Walsh/AP

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