Last August, white nationalists held a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia after the city planned on removing multiple statues of Robert Lee. They gathered at Emancipation Park at the location of a Lee statue that was currently the subject of a legal challenge. The rally turned deadly when 32-year-old Heather Hayer was killed by a car driven into the crowd by one of the white nationalists.
In the months since, many school boards in Virginia have voted to change the names of schools and memorials dedicated to the Confederate cause due to it’s connection to black slavery. But Hanover County school board recently voted against the grain, instead choosing to keep the names of Stonewall Jackson Middle School and Lee-Davis High School.
Stonewall Jackson was a famous general, one of the most recognizable military figures in the Confederacy. He was second only to Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederacy from 1861 to 1865.
The school board is the only group that can change the names of these schools, but they tend to respect the votes given out to the community. 13,000 people were surveyed across the county to see what they thought about changing the names of the schools.
Over 75% of the 13,000 people surveyed said they did not want the names of the schools to change. This is an overwhelming majority and it didn’t leave the school board with much choice. Despite the changes occurring at schools across the state, Hanover County residents clearly want to hold onto their Confederate past.
Lee-Davis High School was founded in 1959 in Ashland, Virginia and the building was completed in 1960, just in time for the 1960-61 school year. Late in the 1960s, Lee-Davis Junior High was added to the campus – which soon became Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
“In erasing and replacing the names of these mascots, you erase not simply US history, but Virginia history,” one survey response read.
This answer is referencing the mascots at the two schools, Lee-Davis Confederates and the Stonewall Jackson Rebels. This community feels a strong connection to these mascots and the history of their school, but one key figure might actually have disagreed with them.
Based on his own writings, Lee was actually against erecting any Confederate monuments, saying they would, “keep open the sores of war.” Despite his desires, in the years since the war thousands of monuments to the Confederacy have been erected – especially in the 20th century. With the rise of the Klu Klux Klan and white nationalism, more and more of these monuments were built to promote their cause.
In the years since, these monuments have become community icons and are often defended by the community, no matter their origin. While many schools are turning away from these Confederate names and dedications, clearly the community in Hanover County feels strongly that honoring that aspect of Virginia’s history needs to continue.
What do you think of this controversial and complex situation? Share your thoughts in the comments.