Are the names of American history figures such as Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson racist? That’s the question one school district in Texas is examining.
What’s going on?
According to The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Independent School District is looking into the histories of Founding Fathers like Franklin, Madison and Jefferson — as well as 17 other historical figures — to determine their connection to slavery and racism. The district is investigating whether or not it should change the names of existing schools named after the figures. The school board has already recommended name changes for four schools named after Confederate figures, including Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
The district's chief of school leadership, Stephanie Elizalde, said last week, "This was just a very quick review of looking at the biographies of the individuals. And if there was any association with Confederacy — not making a judgment for or against — just if we saw Confederacy named in it, we then highlighted it. We are now in the process of doing a second [look]."
Texas icon Sam Houston is also on the list.
Which direction is DISD leaning?
The district wants to remove names that are racially offensive, while also avoiding a slippery slope.
Joyce Foreman, a DISD trustee, said, "I think, for young children of all races, there should be a removal of any of those types of names, because once you start to research the history, then you begin to understand why it was separate and unequal."
Trustee Dustin Marshall added, “For me, the bright line distinction that we're looking for here — and I absolutely want to avoid a slippery-slope situation — is not whether they were a general or a brigadier general, but whether the school was named in order to honor that individual specifically for their role in the Confederacy."
It’s not clear when the final decisions about the schools’ names will be made. For now, the district is just conducting research on each school’s namesake.