Cleveland schools named after slaveholders considered for renaming

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CLEVELAND (WJW) – Names on several Cleveland Metropolitan School District buildings are under review to be replaced. 

“Very, very happy once again that the school board moved in this direction,” said Ward 9 Councilman Kevin Conwell.

Per a December resolution and recommendations from a School Naming Ad Hoc Work Group, five schools are being prioritized for further review as they are currently named for slaveholders and other historical figures with racially problematic pasts.

The buildings include Albert Bushnell Hart PreK-8 School, Louis Agassiz PreK-8 School, Luis Munoz Marin PreK-8 School, Patrick Henry PreK-8 School and Thomas Jefferson PreK-12 International Newcomers Academy

Patrick Henry Elementary is in Conwell’s ward. 

“Patrick Henry owned 60 slaves. He owned 60 slaves and then the children of our community are going to a school named after him?” said Conwell.

Conwell said the murder of George Floyd in 2020 brought the issue back to the forefront. 

“I reached out to (CMSD CEO) Eric Gordon and the school board. They were right there so I definitely want to thank the school board and thank Eric Gordon for benefiting our children in the city of Cleveland,” said Conwell.

In September, the board of education approved new naming criteria which, among many guidelines, includes: “The Board will not consider the names of persons who have a documented history of enslaving other humans, or have actively participated in the institution of slavery, systemic racism, the oppression of people of color, women or other minority groups, or who have been a member of a supremist organization.”

“Any schools that come online after this, there’s a process of naming the schools and they’re going to have the community to name the schools,” said Conwell.

The school made clear that no further action will be taken until they get feedback from the community in meetings that are tentatively scheduled for January and February of 2022. 

“The community is very, very happy. They’re very excited about it,” said Conwell.

The councilman said he hopes Patrick Henry will be renamed for former Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, but ultimately just wants to see a name of inspiration proudly displayed. 

“And they might want to become a congressperson or even a president of the United States. That’s very, very good, but having something named after a former slaveholder, that was horrible,” Conwell said.

Conwell said following the community meetings, he hopes an announcement of the new names can line up with Black History Month.

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