Across South, a push to change Confederate school names

FILE - In this July 3, 2020, file photo a man wears a Confederate flag while walking with others in Marion, Va. Defense leaders are weighing a new policy that would bar the display of the Confederate flag at department facilities without actually mentioning its name, several U.S. officials said Thursday, July 16. Officials said the new plan presents a creative way to ban the Confederate flag in a manner that may not raise the ire of President Donald Trump, who has defended peoples rights to display it. (Andre Teague/Bristol Herald Courier via AP, File)
FILE - In this July 3, 2020, file photo a man wears a Confederate flag while walking with others in Marion, Va. Defense leaders are weighing a new policy that would bar the display of the Confederate flag at department facilities without actually mentioning its name, several U.S. officials said Thursday, July 16. Officials said the new plan presents a creative way to ban the Confederate flag in a manner that may not raise the ire of President Donald Trump, who has defended peoples rights to display it. (Andre Teague/Bristol Herald Courier via AP, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Trude Lamb is a standout cross country runner at Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas, but the name on her jersey is a sharp reminder of a man “who didn’t believe people like me were 100% human.”

The sophomore, originally from Ghana, told the school board this summer that she had seen the horrific conditions of slave dungeons on the African coast and can’t support a name that celebrates a Confederate general who fought on the side of slavery. Along with many other students and alumni, she pushed to change the name this year in a campaign organized under the hashtag #wewontwearthename.

The school board approved the change in July after years of resistance.

“That name was not a black supporter. He owned slaves. He did anything he could to get rid of Black people. I’m like, ‘No, not wearing this name on my jersey,’” Lamb told The Associated Press.

More than 100 public schools in the U.S. are named for Confederate figures — roughly 90 of those for Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis or Gen. Stonewall Jackson — according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many were founded during the days of segregation as all-white schools but now also serve African American students. At least a dozen have majority Black student bodies.

A renewed push has emerged to rename many of the schools as ongoing nationwide protests over police misconduct and racial injustice have spurred the removal of Confederate monuments. Multiple school systems in Alabama, Texas and Virginia have voted to change school names in recent months, but local resistance and state laws make that no simple task.

Lamb, who gained national attention for her letter to the Tyler school board, has become a target of social media posts with racist language and even threats of violence, her mother said.

In Montgomery, Alabama, three high schools are named after Lee, Davis and Sidney Lanier, a writer and poet who was a Confederate soldier. The schools have student populations ranging from 82% to 99% Black.