School Board Considers Reverting School Names Back to Confederate Generals

A school district in Virginia is considering reverting two of its schools’ names back to their previous monikers, which honored Confederate Civil War generals and enslavers Stonewall Jackson, Turner Ashby and Robert E. Lee.

Shenandoah County, which is located approximately 100 miles west of Washington D.C. changed the names of its high school and elementary schools to respond to the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, who was shot to death by Minneapolis police. This sparked uprisings across the country for racial justice. In January 2021 the district school board voted 6-0Stonewall Jackson High School will be changed to Mountain View High School. Ashby-Lee Elementary School will be changed to Honey Run Elementary School.

However, the name has changed and three members of Shenandoah County Schools Board have been replaced by newer members. have peddled disturbing rhetoric about people who favored changing the schools’ names so as not to honor enslavers.

Board vice chair Dennis Barlow has referred to those who called for the name changes as “creepy” and “elitist,” characterizing them as outsiders who are from “the dark side.” He has also described Stonewall Jackson, who enslaved six people before the Civil War began, as a “gallant commander” for the Confederacy.

Board members who voted in favor of the original name changes remained firm in their previous positions, despite accusations by Barlow and others that it was undemocratic.

“Most people who vote for elected officials then count on them to do the right thing on their behalf,” said Cynthia Walsh, one of the three members who has remained on the school board since the schools’ names changed.

Meanwhile, far right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) praised the school board’s push to revert to the previous names. “Wonderful news. We should always preserve our history,” the Congress member said.

Many social media users pointed out that if the district changed their names back, they would choose to honor three men who helped preserve slavery in South.

“Many public schools were named after Confederate leaders in response to Brown v. Board of Ed in 1954,” wrote Civil War historian Kevin Levin on Twitter, referencing the Supreme Court ruling that ended government-sanctioned segregation in public schools. “It was an example of ‘massive resistance’ against civil rights. Is this really the legacy that the Shenandoah County School Board wants to honor?”

Some community members said that reverting to the old names would send a wrong message.

“What message does it send?” an unnamed reverend said to a local news station regarding the matter. “It says our community views it’s more important to move backward than forward… That our past means more than our future.”