Cleveland Municipal School District Officially Renames Three Schools Whose Namesakes Had Racially Problematic Histories

Two formerly named for slaveholders and one for a scholar with race issues will be changed

Cleveland Municipal School District Officially Renames Three Schools Whose Namesakes Had Racially Problematic Histories
Cleveland Transformation Alliance

CMSD's board this week approved renaming three local schools after a review conducted, partially at the urging of city council, as part of the national reckoning of racial justice in 2020 that saw buildings and institutions named after historical figures with problematic pasts get fresh scrutiny.

New criteria approved by the district last year mandates that schools not be named after people “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.”

The district's working group, which included an historian, last year identified seven schools that qualified under the new guidelines and 11 additional ones that might be reviewed in the future.

The changes approved this week include:

- Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy will now be named Natividad Pagan International Newcomers Academy in honor of the late Natividiad Pagan, who worked at Newcomers Academy.  (Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves.)

- Patrick Henry School will now be named in honor of Stephanie Tubbs Jones, the late U.S. Rep with a distinguished and long history of serving Northeast Ohio in local and national government. (Patrick Henry owned dozens of slaves and upon his death left them to his descendants.)

- And Louis Agassiz School will be named for Mary Church Terrell, an advocate and eduator who spent decades working for women's rights. (Agassiz was a scholar of polygenics, a scientifically racist branch of research that argues that races are fundamentally unequal.)

In addition to those three, the working group also found that Albert Bushnell Hart, Luis Munoz Marin, John Marshall and James Ford Rhodes should be renamed, though those changes might not come until later this year or 2023.

Councilman Kevin Conwell, who sponsored one of the city council resolutions urging CMSD to reevaluate school names, late last year told “We can’t have our children going to a school named for people who owned slaves, who owned Black people. Nowhere on this planet should you go to school where you’re honoring your oppressors.”

In a statement after this week's vote to rename Patrick Henry School in honor of Tubbs-Jones, Conwell said: “Children have to see success every day. They will get a chance to see that, to see pictures of her and aspire to be just like Stephanie Tubbs Jones.”
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About The Author

Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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