Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can also be an equally effective tool for hurting people. The same goes for names. Language has power, and certain names are steeped in history.
There are currently two petitions floating around Hanover County. One is fighting to have the names of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School changed. The other petition is a reaction to the first, 7,300 signatures of people who want the names to stay the same.
If you aren’t quite sure why this is a controversial issue turn on any news station and wait. A story just like this one will likely come up within the first hour. Across the country people want monuments, buildings, and flags that honor Confederates to be removed. While others want things to stay the way that they are.
Isn’t this the crux of just about every historical battle? Some people want change and others do not. While I can understand that new is scary, change typically happens whether people want it to or not.
The primary reason that the civil war was fought was because some people wanted to end slavery and some people did not. There were other reasons that war erupted in our nation, but any historian will tell you that slavery was the main catalyst.
Can you find quotes online in which these three men, who the schools are named after, seem to denounce slavery? Yes. Did some of the union generals own slaves? Also yes. We tend to make gods of people and then they turn out to just be normal people who are full of contradictions.
All that being said, at the end of the day Lee, Davis, and Jackson were all putting their lives on the line to fight for the side that wanted to continue slavery. Think about that, we named our schools after men who risked death to see slavery continue.
If that is not enough of a reason to side with the folks who want to change the name maybe this will be. Lee-Davis High School and its mascot, the confederates, were named in 1958. In 1958 Virginia was still illegally resisting the integration of our school systems. To assert that the naming of the school at that time did not have roots in racism would be ludicrous.
It’s time we stop celebrating this dark time in our country’s history. Things change, that much is inevitable. At this point its not a question of if, but when.