This Virginia Confederate-Named Middle School Will Be Renamed After Hampton Slave & Revolutionary Hero, Cesar Tarrant
Come Sept. 4: Goodbye, Jefferson Davis Middle School. Hello, Cesar Tarrant Middle School.
Hampton, Virginia's Jefferson Davis Middle School is getting a new name. According to the Daily Press, the Hampton School Board decided via unanimous vote that the middle school's new name will be: Cesar Tarrant Middle School. The school will be renamed after the Hampton slave and Revolutionary War hero in September. Jefferson Davis served as the President of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865.
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“It’s interesting to me that Cesar Tarrant is one of a long line of individuals of African descent who have served and defended and fought for our country, even when our country did not grant them the full rights of citizenship,” board member Phyllis Henry said. “He is therefore a role model for many generations of patriotic African Americans, and I think a very fitting name for a school which will be revived from a name that served as Cesar Tarrant Elementary School.”
The debate on whether the school should be named (along with another campus named after fellow confederate Robert E. Lee) went on for about two years. During a public hearing in 2016, 10 voted in favor for renaming the buildings while 31 voted against it.
But, then the Charlottesville rally happened, changing the political and racial climate in a significant way. Following that rally, the Peninsula chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Hampton Branch NAACP requested the school renaming be reconsidered.
Last year, two hearings were held and 88 people said the schools should be renamed, citing the board's policy that elementary and middle schools “will be named in honor of persons who have rendered outstanding service to mankind in their community, state and/or country.” Only 15 people voted for the schools to keep their names.
“Public sentiment was decisively different in 2017...We as a board have made a decision that we believe was in the best interest of the community, and this vote demonstrates that we were unanimous in our decision,” said board chairman Jason Samuels, of the ultimate 6-0 board vote in favor of the name change.