Kanawha County Board of Education
United States of America

Stonewall Jackson Middle School in our state capital of Charleston WV remains a school named after the most successful general of the Confederacy. Ironically and sadly, it happens to educate the highest number of African American middle school students in the State of WV.

This is a new preface to start a new conversation:

As I rode past the toppled pin oak on Washington Street in 2011, I thought, "It couldn't take it anymore." It came crashing down and took with it the sign that stood in its shadow for as long as it lived. "Stonewall Jackson."

The tree said to the state of West Virginia what I was cautioned not to. It's time to move on. It's time to be sensitive. It's time to be politically correct. It's time to pass the torch to a new and more perfect ideology - a new and more perfect Union, that was saved by the war in which Stonewall Jackson fought as a confederate general.

He fought and lost. The country, still torn by segregation and Jim Crow, named an all white public school after the gentleman who is boasted to have wanted his personal slaves to learn to read and write - as though it erased the sad truth that he fought for the wrong cause.

Even though it was wrapped up in "the right for state governance," he fought so that other slave owners could make that same decision, or not, for African-American human beings. I'm sure their feelings were hurt by the state of their lives. I wonder what his name meant to them?

The school sits on what was the hilly bastion of white supremacy in Charleston, amidst the plantations and Big Houses of Glenwood and Littlepaige that overlooked the flats which housed the poor whites, some freed blacks, and many of the slave quarters of those working in the salt mines and as constructors of the new Capitol. It was integrated in the 1950s with armed National Guardsmen escorting an entourage of brave African-American teens, just like in Topeka.

My aunt heard them hurling the slurs with the eggs and rocks as she walked up that hill from the bus stop. It hurt their feelings, but didn't break their spirits. A school named after Stonewall Jackson, Confederate general. I wonder what his name meant to them?

The neighborhood changed, those in the hills of Edgewood sent their children to Charleston Catholic and GW, as the West Side took an economic hit. The diversion of friendly, yet passionate, rivalry with Charleston High kept spirits high and his name became disassociated with what he'd done to earn his fame, and more with how many football championships they won. West Virginia was not the target of the same scrutiny as many, more southern public schools.

Federal and state regulators were designing legislation that made public institutions respond to the sensitivities of all of their constituents, regardless of the local culture. Most state governments willingly changed the names of public institutions, and especially schools, which did not reflect cultural sensitivity. Most notably was the acceptance that slavery was wrong and that no public institution would glorify those that owned slaves or fought for others to own them. And although many eminent men and women have diverse resumes, some went so far as to strip presidents like George Washington and, even, Thomas Jefferson of the honor because they'd been slave owners despite their other accomplishments. Most Confederate names and the flag were removed from publicly owned buildings because they stood for an ideal that hurt most citizens' feelings.

Stonewall Jackson Middle School educates more African-American students than any other middle school in Charleston, if not Kanawha County, if not the region, if not the state. That they should lend their talents in the name of a Confederate general is astounding to me. It hurts my feelings. It's akin to Jewish children going to a school named after a notorious Nazi.

Where would those children be if the Nazis had won? Where would the African-American children on the West Side be if the Confederacy had won? Because he probably was a great man fighting for the wrong side, I think General Jackson would probably admit that if he could do it over, he would fight for a different legacy.

My feelings are hurt that those whose tax dollars pay for the school, should not question it, much less, all those paid to be at the forefront of cultural sensitivity like educators, and journalists, and counselors, and clergy, and elected officials.

I think that great pin oak had hurt feelings, too. It may have even gotten angry, the way it came crashing down on his name.

I thought that big sign might not be replaced in this new millennium. Maybe the old stone landmark and cornerstone etching would be enough to signify a historic, but not refreshed, significance for those nostalgic about their native son. But to my disappointment, within a month a new, improved Stonewall Jackson marquee was erected--At once beckoning and taunting another generation of African Americans who just want to learn and live without having to remember what Charleston WV once wanted for them.

We, the undersigned, support efforts to change the name of the public school from Stonewall Jackson to another more appropriate representation of the ideals and citizens of West Virginia and the United States of America.

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The Change the name of Stonewall Jackson Middle School petition to Kanawha County Board of Education was written by Mothers of Diversity America and is in the category Education at GoPetition.