State Watch

Robert E. Lee High School in Virginia to be renamed after John Lewis

Stefani Reynolds

The Fairfax County,Va., School Board in an unanimous vote on Thursday afternoon decided to give Robert E. Lee High School a new namesake: late Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), who died at the age of 80 last Friday.

The school board initially agreed on renaming the high school in June and then held a virtual hearing on Wednesday night to hear from the community, including students and alumni.

“The Board heard from students, teachers and staff members, families, and the community about the old name,” chair of the board Ricardy Anderson said. “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.”

Anderson also lauded Lewis as “a champion of the Civil Rights movement,” and a “true American hero.”

The school’s current namesake, Robert E. Lee, was a general of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

“The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” board member Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who originally proposed the name change, said. 

“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.”

As a young activist during the Civil Rights Movement, Lewis took part in the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington as well as enduring “Bloody Sunday” on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

At the March on Washington in 1963, Lewis was the youngest keynote speaker, and 45 years later, he was the only person who gave remarks at the historic march to see former President Barack Obama get sworn in as the country’s first Black president. In 2011, Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.’s highest civilian honor.

The name change will take effect this coming school year.

Tags Barack Obama Fairfax County Public Schools John Lewis John Lewis Robert E. Lee Robert E. Lee Virginia
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