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Congressman John Lewis

High school in Fairfax County, Va., renamed for Congressman John Lewis

July 24, 2020
The district is removing the name of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the Springfield, Va., school in favor of Lewis, the recently deceased civil rights leader.

The Fairfax County (Va.) School Board has voted to rename Robert E. Lee High School for U.S. Congressman John R. Lewis of Georgia, who died last week.

The district says in a news release that the new name for the Springfield, Va., school will be effective for the 2020-21 school year.

“The Board heard from students, teachers and staff members, families, and the community about the old name,” says School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson.  “It was important for us to be mindful of these comments and to select a name that reflected the diversity and multiculturalism that currently exists at the school and in our community.

"Rep. Lewis was a champion of the civil rights movement, and our board strongly believes this is an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero. We will also honor his life’s work by continuing to promote equity, justice, tolerance and service in the work that we do.” 

School Board member Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who represents the area that includes the high school, proposed the name change along with at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra.

“The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” says Kaufax. “Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and members of the community feel safe and supported. I believe that John Lewis’ extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come.”

The board voted in June to change the name of the school; that was followed by a one-month period of public comment on possible new names.

[From JUNE 2020: Fairfax County (Va.) board votes to rename Robert E. Lee High School]

Lewis served in the U.S. House of Representative for 33 years. He was a civil rights leader and one of the original organizers of the 1963 March on Washington to draw attention to inequalities faced by African Americans.

He also led the Selma to Montgomery march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 that came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

Civil rights demonstrators were marching to the state capital to demand voting rights for African Americans when they were met by armed police who attacked them. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law later that year and is considered one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.

Lewis died on July 17, 2020.

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