Hampton residents want two schools to remove Confederate names

Zoe Griffin | Staff Writer

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Courtesy of Hampton University

Dozens of Hampton citizens gathered together in the auditorium of Benjamin Syms Middle School Thursday evening, October 26, to express their concerns before the Hampton school board.

The purpose of this public hearing was to decide whether the Confederate soldiers’ names on Jefferson Davis Middle school and the campus at Lee, formerly Robert E. Lee, Elementary school should be taken down from school buildings.

The Hampton chapter of the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference requested that the two middle schools be renamed following the events in Charlottesville.

During the white nationalist rally on August 11, protesters and neo-Nazi’s had altercations which eventually brought issues involving confederate monuments to light.

The public hearing is one of two being held by the school board to get the opinions of citizens on renaming the schools. They are currently named after Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee, who were both Confederate leaders in the Civil War.

The public hearing followed the format of an open-panel discussion.

Before each citizen stood up to speak before the panel, they had to state their full names and home addresses. They were given only two minutes each to express their concerns.

The auditorium was completely diverse in both race and age.

A group of Hampton University students made up a majority of supporters for the middle schools’ names being changed.

There were also several teachers, professors, and citizens who had opinions that they wanted to be considered by the Hampton school board.

A similar public hearing occurred last year as well following requests to rename Davis Middle School and Campus after Lee, but the school board decided to leave the names of the school untouched.

The majority of the community wanted to leave the names of the confederate soldiers on the schools last year.

Some citizens still take that stance today.

During this public hearing, those in support of renaming the schools largely outnumbered those who were against the names being removed.Activists and supporters of the name change brought new arguments and perspectives to the hearing this year.

Many came to the hearing specifically in support of Heather Heyer, a woman who was killed during the riots in Charlottesville.

“We have a voice in this day and age. We are a special class of people and we deserve respect. If the name of that school doesn’t change, the name of the people on this school board may change because we’re going to vote,” said Hampton resident Michael Bullock as the audience erupted in applause.

The second hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Hampton High School.

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