The Fairfax County School Board held a one-month period of public comment on possible new names, and held a virtual town hall meeting and a public hearing, before voting to change the school’s name Thursday to John R. Lewis High School.
“The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” said school board member Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who had proposed the name change, according to a news release from Fairfax County Public Schools.
But he was also a leader in the civil rights movement, often alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He took part in lunch counter sit-ins, joined the Freedom Riders in challenging segregated buses and was a keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.
“The Board heard from students, teachers and staff members, families, and the community about the old name,” school board Chair Ricardy Anderson said in the news release.
“It was important for us to be mindful of these comments and to select a name that reflected the diversity and multiculturalism that currently exists at the school and in our community. Rep. Lewis was a champion of the Civil Rights movement, and our Board strongly believes this is an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero.”
The board said the name change will be effective for the 2020-2021 school year.
“Y’all, we just renamed Robert E. Lee High School to John Lewis High School. When I was the education chair of @FairfaxNAACP in 2019, we were told we would never remove Lee from this community. We proved that we are this community. Step up and speak out, everyone!”