‘Change the Names’ Activists Plan Tuesday 5PM Rally At Robert E. Lee High

Mar 23, 2021

A group of progressive activists is gathering Tuesday in support of the effort to rename some Duval County schools. 

Speakers will include 13-year-old Duval County student and activist Grace Mae, as well as Pastor Phillip Baber, Regional Director of the Florida Poor People’s Campaign. 

The fight over the names of nine Duval County schools has been going on for several years. Supporters of the current names, many of them alumni, say they don’t want to lose their connection to their alma maters. 

Supporters of choosing new names say public schools should not be named after people who enslaved African Americans and committed acts of violence against Native Americans.

The rally will be held at 5 p.m. at Robert E. Lee High School on MacDuff Avenue South. 

Ben Frazier of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville said holding the event at Robert E. Lee High was particularly significant. “Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general who fought for the promotion and the perpetuation of slavery,” Frazier said. “We believe that these confederate namesakes should not be honored by putting their names on property and public places.”

Six of the schools whose names may be changed are named for Confederate generals; two more are named for French colonizer Jean Ribault, and one is named for President Andrew Jackson, whose legacy includes forcibly removing Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Creek and Seminole people from their homes and causing the deaths of thousands. 

“We are asking that these changes be made in the best interests of all students; to protect their dignity and their self-esteem,” said Wells Todd of Take ‘Em Down Jax.  

The nine schools are currently in step 3 of a nine-step process that is expected to end this summer. By April 14, schools are to finalize up to five name recommendations for community members to vote on. The schools’ current names will also be on the ballot as well. 

The next step, the vote itself, is scheduled to be completed by May 12. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.