Cleveland Schools, some of which are named after slave owners, will be renamed

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is preparing to rename seven schools currently named for slave owners and other historical figures over concerns with racially problematic pasts.

New names for five elementary buildings are expected to be in place for the 2022-2023 school year, following community meetings in January and February 2022 during which school administrators intend to seek feedback from parents, students and others. Decisions are subject to the approval of the school board.

Elementary schools to be renamed are:

* Albert Bushnell Hart (Broadway-Slavic Village)

* Louis Agassiz (Boulevard West)

* Luis Muñoz Marín (Tremont)

* Patrick Henry (Glenville)

* Thomas Jefferson PreK-12 International Newcomers Academy (Stockyards)

Two more high schools are expected to be renamed in the future, but CMSD officials who spoke to and The Plain Dealer were unable to provide a timeline yet. They are John Marshall, in the Jefferson neighborhood, and James Ford Rhodes, in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood.

CMSD initiated the name change process earlier this year as part of the national calculation of racial injustice triggered by the 2020 death of George Floyd. School officials were also encouraged by two resolutions passed by Cleveland City Council in 2020 urging the CMSD to change the names. The effort was led by Councilor Kevin Conwell, whose ward includes Patrick Henry, and supported by Councilor Brian Mooney, whose ward includes Louis Agassiz.

The CMSD school board convened working groups in July made up of staff, students and family members to determine new school naming criteria and identify existing schools named after prominent people who don’t. failed to meet those standards, according to Michael Houser, head of political and union liaison, and Trent Mosley, head of strategy implementation.

CMSD also recruited a historian to provide historical information on each person for whom a school is named.

The groups found seven schools whose names should be changed according to the new naming criteria.

The groups identified 11 other schools for “possible further examination,” meaning the groups were torn over whether there was enough evidence in the person’s past that conflicted with the naming criteria.

The new criteria exclude schools from being named after people “who have a documented history of enslaving other humans, or who actively participated in the institution of slavery, systemic racism, oppression … people of color, women or other minority groups, or who have been a member of a supremist organization.

Oppression is defined as “the inequitable use of authority, law or physical force to prevent others from being free or equal”.

The school board approved the new naming criteria in September and on December 14 adopted the task force’s recommendations for schools that should be renamed.

Conwell was elated when he spoke to after the December vote.

“We can’t let our kids go to a school named after people who owned slaves, who owned black people,” Conwell said. “Nowhere on this planet should you go to a school where you honor your oppressors. “

Conwell is hopeful that Patrick Henry will be renamed for the first black Ohio and Glenville native MP Stephanie Tubbs-Jones. The city council resolution for Louis Agassiz urged the district to rename this school to Louis Stokes, a civil rights pioneer who was the first black member of Congress from Ohio.

Regarding Henry, born in 1736, the council resolution notes his role as founding father and owner of slaves and specifies that upon his death, “Henry left his estates and his 67 slaves to be shared between his wife. and his six sons; despite his various comments opposing the institution of slavery, Henry did not free any slaves.

D’Agassiz, a Swiss biologist born in 1807, the council resolution states that “over the past two centuries Agassiz’s reputation has been tarnished and his legacy has been called into question due, among other things, to his belief in scientific racism: the pseudoscientific belief that empirical evidence exists to support or justify racism, racial inferiority, or racial superiority.

According to the historian’s analysis for CMSD, Jefferson, born in 1743, opposed slavery as a founding father, but he did so “while owning over 600 enslaved people throughout his life. He believed blacks were racially inferior to whites and advocated that emancipated blacks be deported to Africa or the West Indies.

He also fathered at least six children with Sally Hemings, his wife’s enslaved half-sister. “Jefferson continued to hold his children in bondage with Hemings. Although historians are at odds over the nature of Jefferson’s relationship with Hemings, as a female slave, Sally Hemings had no legal rights.

Hart, born in 1854, was among the first generation of professional historians in the United States and grew up in Cleveland, according to the analysis. As a faculty member at Harvard University, Hart supported the black academic and activist WEB Du Bois. But, among other problematic positions, Hart wrote this in response to a Harvard policy that prohibited black students from entering dormitories: “I have been convinced for years … that the black race, as a race, is inferior to the white race, and that a mixture of races from the South or elsewhere would mean a decline in civilization.

Muñoz Marín, born 1898, was Puerto Rico’s first elected governor and President John F. Kennedy’s adviser on Latin America. According to the analysis, he “vigorously suppressed the Puerto Rican nationalist movement and made it a crime to display the Puerto Rican flag, sing the national anthem or defend independence in any way. Muñoz Marín claimed to support the expansion of Puerto Rico’s self-sufficiency, but his policies made Puerto Rico more dependent on the United States, including placing more emphasis on teaching English in schools rather than from Spanish.

CMSD’s Louis Agassiz School is one of five elementary schools (and two secondary schools) that are expected to be renamed.

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