A Virginia high school was rededicated in honor of the late Rep. John Lewis, replacing the name of a Confederate general to celebrate a civil rights icon.
The Fairfax County Public Schools campus in Springfield is now John R. Lewis High School after a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday.
Senior Kim Boateng said she was embarrassed to say her school’s previous name: The school was originally named for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“Our old name did not define who we were as a school,” Boateng said.
Boateng wants students to be proud of their diverse community. The high school reported a student body composed of over 85% minority students during the 2019-20 school year.
“It was about trying to honor what it means to be a civil rights leader, what it means to stand for the rights of different people, for voting rights for people of all different colors,” Boateng said.
The school opened in 1958 and was named during the burgeoning civil rights movement and just four years after the Brown vs. Board of Education decision that integrated public schools across the United States, NBC Washington reported.
The school's athletic teams have always been known as the Lancers, lacking the Confederate iconography used by other Northern Virginia public schools. Sports teams will play on as the Lewis Lancers.
In Virginia, which once housed the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, statues and iconography honoring that period have become a flashpoint. The state removed a statue of Lee from the U.S. Capitol and took down a segregationist statue from the state capitol.
At this Fairfax County school, the name change has been months in the making. The school was renamed in July 2020 and got national attention, including a mention in a “Jeopardy!” question.
Lewis’ name was considered before he passed away, Boateng said.
Lewis High School is one of 20 public schools across the U.S. named for Confederate figures that have been renamed in the past year. Research by Education Week magazine found there are still about 200 schools in the U.S. named for confederate figures.