|Photo of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, from the U.S. Military History Institute, published online by USA Today Network on 17 Dec. 2013.|
Calls for similar actions have followed, and it seems that the velocity of these requests has increased after the June 2015 shootings of nine members of the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. My own county, Fairfax County, Virginia, in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, is facing a similar situation. Just last week our school board amended its policy regarding when school facilities could be renamed. Previously the policy dictated that name changes could occur only when the school building had a change in "purpose or function." But it voted unanimously to expand the basis for school renaming to include "where some other compelling need exists."
The reason for the interest in amending an obscure school board policy may be that recent online petitions have asked the school board to change the name of schools named after J.E.B. Stuart (a Confederate general) and other Confederate leaders or opponents of school integration.
It is by no means clear yet what action our school board may or may not take regarding any of these petitions. What is clear, though, is that this issue attracts a lot of attention, reflection, and emotion.
When we return from break our studies move ever closer to more modern historical eras and events. It is always a good idea to find connections to the present during our consideration of the past. We should be mindful, of course, that often times those connections will result in passionate debate and that we are responsible for ensuring that those debates are civil, informed, and respectful.