Virginia board votes to restore Confederate names to 2 schools (2024)

Confederate Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville removed | LiveNOW from FOX

The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, officially removed its statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on Saturday.

In a notable decision, a school board in Shenandoah County, Virginia, voted 5-1 to restore the original names of two schools that were previously changed due to their Confederate associations.

This reversal marks a significant shift from the actions taken in 2020 amid widespread calls for racial justice reform.

The schools in question, formerly known as Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary, will be renamed Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary, respectively.

National context of the decision

The 2020 decision to remove these names was part of a more significant movement that saw similar changes across various Southern states in the United States, driven by the Black Lives Matter protests.

However, the recent vote suggests a change in direction, as current board members argued that the initial renaming process did not fully consider community input or adhere to due process.

This act of restoring Confederate names is unprecedented, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which monitors Confederate memorials nationwide.

Virginia board votes to restore Confederate names to 2 schools (1)

FILE - The statue of confederate general Stonewall Jackson is loaded onto a flat bed trailer after a crane lifted the statue off its base located at the intersection of Monument Avenue and Arthur Ashe Blvd in Richmond, VA on July 1, 2020.

Senior research analyst Rivka Maizlish highlighted that this is the first known instance of a school system reinstating a Confederate name after its removal. While the general trend favors the removal of Confederate symbols, this case stands out as an exception.

Despite this isolated instance of name restoration, the overall movement toward removing Confederate names and memorials has persisted, albeit at a slower pace since 2020.

Notably, the U.S. Army has renamed nine installations that bore Confederate leaders' names and removed a Confederate memorial from Arlington National Cemetery, reflecting ongoing efforts to address historical racial injustices.

Legislative changes affecting Confederate memorials

In Virginia, legislation passed in 2020 now allows local governments more freedom to remove Confederate statues and memorials, although this law does not extend to school names. The recent decision by the Shenandoah County School Board illustrates the complexities and ongoing debates surrounding the presence of Confederate symbols in public spaces across the nation.

Who were the historical figures behind the school renamings?

The recent decision by the Shenandoah County School Board to restore the names of Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary has sparked renewed discussions on the legacy of the Civil War and the current political climate.

This decision marks a return to Confederate names for these schools, previously known as Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary, respectively.

Historical context of the names

Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, a key Confederate general famed for his role in the First Battle of Bull Run near Manassas in 1861, met a tragic end when he was accidentally shot by his own troops and died after his arm was amputated in 1863.

His name has been a focal point in debates over school naming conventions, notably leading to its removal from another school in Prince William County, Virginia, which was renamed Unity Reed High School in 2020.

RELATED: Richmond removes its last city-owned Confederate statue

Ashby Lee Elementary derives its name from two Confederate figures: General Robert E. Lee, a commanding officer of the Confederate forces, and Turner Ashby, a cavalry officer who died in 1862.

Both figures are commemorated in various locations across Virginia, reflecting their historical significance and the ongoing debate over their legacy.

Funding and political climate

The resolution approved by the school board states that private donations will be used to pay for the name changes.

Shenandoah County, a largely rural jurisdiction with a population of about 45,000, roughly 100 miles west of the nation's capital, has long been politically conservative. In 2020, Republican Donald Trump won 70% of the presidential vote in Shenandoah, even as Biden won Virginia by 10 points.

In Virginia, local governments were banned from removing Confederate memorials and statues until the 2020 law lifted those restrictions.

Statues of Confederate leaders, including Lee, Jackson, and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, were removed from Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue in 2020 and 2021 following protests and vandalizing of the statues.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. It was reported from Los Angeles.

Virginia board votes to restore Confederate names to 2 schools (2024)
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