Updated May 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Virginia school board votes to restore schools' Confederate names

People watch as the Stonewall Jackson statue is removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia on July 1, 2020. - Workers in Richmond, Virginia, removed a statue of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a Confederate general, after the city's mayor ordered the "immediate removal" of Confederate monuments.

People watch as the Stonewall Jackson statue is removed from Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, in July 2020. Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/AFP via Getty Images

A Virginia school board voted early Friday to reinstate the original Confederate names of two public schools.

Why it matters: The Shenandoah County School Board's 5-1 vote in favor of the move appears to be the first such action since authorities began removing Confederate symbols from U.S. institutions and public spaces in 2020 following racial justice protests that erupted after the murder of George Floyd.

State of play: The vote reverses the board's decision in 2020 to remove the local elementary and high schools' association with Civil War-era Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby.

  • Consequently, Mountain View High School will revert to being called Stonewall Jackson High School, and Honey Run Elementary School will again be called Ashby-Lee Elementary School.

Driving the news: The Coalition for Better Schools, a local conservative group, pushed for the change, saying in a letter to the school board that the group believes "that revisiting this decision is essential to honor our community's heritage and respect the wishes of the majority."

Background: Turner Ashby was a Confederate cavalry commander who owned enslaved people and advocated violence against Northern abolitionists, per Axios' justice and race reporter Russell Contreras.

  • Ashby served under Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a general who was known to have owned six enslaved people.
  • Ty Seidule's 2021 book, "Robert E. Lee and Me: A Southerner's Reckoning with the Myth of the Lost Cause," details how statues to Jackson and other Confederate leaders came in 20th century eras to symbolize racial terror, as white southerners embraced a revisionist history about the Civil War.
  • Defenders of Confederates downplay that criticism and say it's about history, Contreras notes.

What's next: "The funds required to implement the restoration must be provided by private donations exclusively and not be borne by the school system or government tax funds, though the SCPS [Shenandoah County Public Schools] will oversee disbursements relating to restoration costs," per the motion that was carried.

Flashback: Confederate monuments become flashpoints in protests against racism.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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