Respect Equality

These seven schools in Cleveland bear names of slaveholders — but that could be changing

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Story at a glance

  • The Cleveland City Council passed a resolution that urged the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) to rename schools that commemorated historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
  • The city council said Jefferson and Henry had documented histories of participating in “systemic racism” and “oppression.”
  • Five elementary schools are set to be renamed during the 2022-2023 school year and two other local high schools are also expected to be renamed in the future.

Several schools in Ohio are currently named after slaveowners and now one school district is trying to change that, implementing plans to rename seven schools in the Cleveland school district.  

Last year, the Cleveland City Council passed a resolution that urged the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) to rename schools that commemorated historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, over their documented histories of participating in “systemic racism” and “oppression,” according to NBC News. 

That time has come, with five elementary buildings set to be renamed in the 2022-2023 school year, though the decision is contingent upon school board approval. According to local media, Albert Bushnell Hart, Louis Agassiz, Luis Muñoz Marín, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson PreK-12 are all schools that are going to be renamed. 

Two local high schools are expected to be renamed too in the future, but no set date has been decided on. Those schools are currently named after John Marshall and James Ford Rhodes. 


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“We can’t have our children going to a school named for people who owned slaves, who owned Black people. Nowhere on this planet should you go to school where you’re honoring your oppressors,” said Kevin Conwell, a Cleveland city councilman. 

Notably, the CMSD’s demographics reveal that 64 percent of its students are Black or African American and 16 percent are Hispanic/Latino. The district is the second largest in the state of Ohio, with just under 70,000 school-aged children.  

According to local media, the school board initially put together a working group, comprised of school staff, students and family, to determine a new school naming criteria and to identify existing schools named after figures who failed to live up to those standards. CMSD also recruited a historian to provide historical context about each person for which schools were currently named after. 

The group concluded that seven schools should be renamed and even identified 11 more for, “possible additional review.” 

Many school districts are attempting similar moves, but progress has been slow. Like in Chicago, where the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Chicago Public Schools identified 30 schools named for slaveholders, but a year later only one school had successfully shed its slaveholder namesake.  


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