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Alexandria (Va.) board votes to rename 2 schools with objectionable names

Nov. 25, 2020
T.C. Williams High was named for an opponent of desegregation, and Maury Elementary was named for a Confederate naval officer.

The Alexandria (Va.) school board has voted to rename two schools named for persons who opposed desegregation or who had ties to the Confederacy.

WTOP News reports that the district will find new names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.

School board member Heather Thornton called the renaming of the schools an “important first step.”

“I do hope that everybody that has been part of the process understands that this is a symbolic step, changing the name of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury is not really going to do anything to eliminate the systemic issues and barriers that we have at the school division,” Thornton said.

The district seek input on new names for the schools, and expect to choose new names in time for the 2021-22 school year.

T.C. Williams High School opened in 1965 and was named for Thomas Chambliss Williams. As Alexandria schools superintendent from the mid-1930s until 1963, he resisted desegregation and argued that Black and white students should remain in separate schools.

Maury Elementary was named for Matthew Maury, who served in the Confederate Navy and helped acquire a ship for the Confederacy. He is considered the “father of modern oceanography and naval meteorology.”

School board member Michelle Rief said she rejects the arguments of those who contend that changing the names of the schools is changing or erasing history.

“We can’t change history, but we can change which history we choose to publicly honor,” Rief says.

The process to rename T.C. Williams High School started in July, after a petition from community members urging the name be dropped.

One of the arguments against renaming school stems from the 2000 film “Remember the Titans,” and how the movie portrayed T.C. Williams High as “representative of integration.”

But board member Christopher Suarez says that even though the 1971 integration of the football team was an inspirational moment, “that fairy tale and story” hid the segregation in the community that has remained for decades.

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