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Atlanta school board committee recommends renaming Henry W. Grady High School after Ida B. Wells

Atlanta school board committee recommends renaming Henry W. Grady High School after Ida B. Wells
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An Atlanta school board committee said a high school named after Henry W. Grady, a well-known journalist and newspaper editor who had a history of espousing white supremacist views, should be renamed for civil rights icon and journalist Ida B. Wells.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the committee voted in favor of the name change on Tuesday. The move comes after Jason Esteves, who chairs the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, established the committee this year following a petition from students at the school advocating for a name change. 

Last month, the school’s student newspaper, The Southerner, also called for the school to be renamed in an online piece and said Wells’ name was the “right name” for the school, citing the late journalist’s “fight for women’s suffrage” and coverage of lynchings. 

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“Wells’ dedication to fighting for social justice encapsulates the essence of the ideals Grady’s student body cares about. We are a school full of activists, with students organizing their own Black Lives Matter protest, registering students to vote and establishing clubs such as March For Our Lives to discuss issues facing our generation,” the piece said. 

Wells’ name was one of scores the committee has considered for the school in recent weeks, according to the Journal-Constitution. Other names weighed for the school included Freedom, Midtown, Piedmont and Thomas E. Adger. 

According to the paper, the local school board could vote on whether to green-light the recommendation by the committee as soon as the first week of November.

In a statement to the paper, Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi, who is also member of the committee, said he thinks “there is remarkable poetic justice to the Ida B. Wells' name, to the meaning.” 

“I think it would be a powerful statement by the group to embrace Ida B. Wells' name,” he added.

The school is not the only structure in Atlanta named after Grady to face scrutiny in the past year.

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Last December, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance BottomsKeisha Lance BottomsAtlanta gets city's first director of LGBTQ affairs Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet Biden pledges to work with mayors MORE also faced calls from Georgia State University students for the removal of a statute of the editor that stands downtown.

Grady has garnered praise over the years for his journalism work, and his name adorns a number of buildings, ranging from hospitals to school buildings, in Georgia, according to ABC News.

However, what is lesser known for some, is his history of supporting white supremacy. 

At the Texas State Fair in the 1880s, Grady was recorded saying that the “supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards – because the white race is the superior race.”

He also said at the time, according to ABC News, that his declaration “shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts.”