Students at Atlanta’s Henry W. Grady High School want to rename their school because its namesake was a 19th century newspaper editor who endorsed white supremacy.
About 180 students submitted a petition to the school board on Feb. 3 requesting a name change for the school, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Grady was an editor and part-owner of The Atlanta Constitution. He advocated for a “New South” after the Civil War, but he also campaigned against equality for freed slaves, saying “the supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever.”
Grady’s name is featured prominently on high-profile Georgia institutions such as Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and the University of Georgia’s journalism school. In biographies in Georgia, Grady is often described with glowing praise and his views about black people are often omitted.
The high school students cited work from a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor that said Grady worked with political leaders to push a “white supremacist” agenda in Georgia.
“We believe now is the time for our school to realize a more inclusive vision, one that can only be achieved when all students can proudly wear school apparel and shout school chants without being forced to honor a segregationist,” the petition said.
The petition suggested journalist Ida B. Wells, who crusaded against racist lynchings, and civil rights attorney Donald Lee Hollowell as potential names for the school.
Atlanta School Board Chairman Jason Esteve said the board is committed to creating an “inclusive community” for students. He said the board is reviewing the petition and the process could take one to two months.
This is the newest attempt by students to change the school’s name. Students previously published an editorial in the school’s paper, the Southerner, requesting a name change in 2016.
The students’ request comes as the school is undergoing a $39.5 million renovation that includes design, construction and other costs. The school is adding classrooms, renovating the auditorium and media centers and upgrading security.
In December, some Georgia State University students demanded the removal of Grady’s statue from a prominent downtown location.