Grady High School students divided over proposed name change

Grady High School students have submitted a petition to the Atlanta Board of Education calling for the Midtown school to be renamed.

The school was named after journalist, orator and white supremacist Henry W. Grady in 1947.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Grady was managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution in the 1880s), a petition to rename the school signed by 180 students was submitted to the school board at its February meeting. The petition cites Grady’s racist views and support of segregation as the reason for the change.

On Jan. 31, the high school’s newspaper, The Southerner, published a lengthy online story written by co-editor Charlotte Spears that shows a divide among students past and present.

The petition suggests now is the time to change the name as the school embarks on a $40 million expansion and renovation. The petition reads in part: “With the upcoming renovation, 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.”

Alternate names suggested in the petition include pioneering African-American  journalist Ida B. Wells and civil rights attorney Donald Lee Hollowell.

Everett Stubin, a white student, quoted in The Southerner article believes the name should be changed. “I hear the argument that it’s part of our history, but I don’t think we need to commemorate him, and I think it’s really backwards that our school still has his name,” Stubin said.

Bradley Hamilton, an African-American student, quoted in The Southerner doesn’t think the change is necessary. “I don’t think we should change it at all because there’s a lot of different things with different names that have racist backgrounds,” said Bradley Hamilton, another African-American student. “That would mean we would have to change all of them. It has a racist background to it, but it is just a name. Like my name, Hamilton, has a racist background to it. So, should I change my name?”

The Atlanta School Board’s policy on naming facilities requires the chairman to appoint a special committee to consider nominations and make a recommendation to the board.

The petition to change Grady High School’s name comes on the heels of the renaming of a number of Atlanta streets – most notably Confederate Avenue in Grant Park – that had connections to Civil War or Jim Crow era figures.

  1. So they would also fight to change the names of:

    – Everything and everyone named after Muhammad, as he certainly held slaves, the Koran endorses slavery, and radical Islamists practice sexual slavery of captive girls and women in our time.

    – Washington, DC, the State of Washington, and all the towns and roads bearing that name, as George Washington held slaves in the colonial Virginia society into which he was born

    – Columbus (GA, OH, etc.), the District of Columbia, the nation of Colombia, and hundreds of other place names, as Christopher Columbus enslaved natives in the Caribbean

    – Augusta (GA, ME, etc.), as Caesar Augustus held slaves

    – Cobb County, as Gov. Howell Cobb held slaves

    – Henry County, as Patrick Henry held slaves in Virginia in the 1700s

    – Houston, TX, and Houston County, GA, as Sam Houston held slaves

    – Madison (WI, GA, and many other towns, counties, and streets) as Pres. James Madison also held slaves in the Virginia society into which he was born.

    – Walton County, as Gov. George Walton held slaves.

    The list of people who lived by the standards of their own times, not of a time in which they did not live, goes on and on and on. Where do you stop renaming everything to purge the names of those who lived before?

    Words and names take on new meanings and connotations over time. Over time, the primary meaning becomes the place or the institution, not the historical person from whom the name was derived. Are the African Americans in Atlanta who proudly declare themselves “Grady babies” because they were born at Grady Hospital endorsing 19th century racial attitudes. Or does Grady to them mean the location and institution by that name?

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