The Kanawha County school board voted unanimously to remove Stonewall Jackson’s name from a Charleston middle school.
Before the 5-0 vote Monday, more than a dozen speakers asked the Board of Education to change the school’s name, including middle school student Camdyn Harris.
“I’m speaking for myself, my family, future generations, the West Side and the greater Charleston community as a whole. We are not trying to take away history, but we are moving forward starting today, starting now, for my future, my classmates’ future and future generations,” he said.
Born in 1824 in present-day Clarksburg, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” was a Confederate general who owned slaves and became one of the most recognizable figures of the Civil War. Sites in more than a dozen states bear his name, including several in West Virginia.
Nearly half the students at Stonewall Jackson Middle are Black. Discussions are ongoing about renaming the school after influential Black educator Booker T. Washington, a Virginia native, or NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was born in West Virginia, but the board has until October to formally decide.
The vote came one week after the City of Charleston quietly removed the face of Riflemen Memorial at a park Downtown. The bronze plaque listed the names of local men who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
But in Clarksburg, Jackson’s birthplace, the Harrison County Commission rejected a motion last month to remove a statue of him in front of the downtown courthouse.
Across West Virginia, roughly 20 statues, memorials and other markers still stand, honoring Confederate generals and soldiers, according to data compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Even two weeks ago, it was unclear whether the school board’s vote would be unanimous. Member Becky Jordon last month said “maybe this is a knee jerk option,” when asked about the proposal. But on Monday, she acknowledged that “times are changing,” while imploring the community to invest time and resources into the school.
“I had been the most vocal about not wanting this change, I know that,” she said. Later she added, “let’s step up what’s inside that building. Yeah, we’re gonna change the outside of the name, but we have a lot more changes to do, and you all need to step it up.”