Activist calls for names of confederate generals to be removed from Duval County schools

Some Robert E. Lee High School alumni strongly oppose changing school’s name

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville activist is demanding that Duval County Public Schools remove the names of confederate generals from all public schools in the district.

Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition, said the names of prominent confederates should be removed and new names should be established based on feedback from the public.

”Northside Coalition requests for name changes are being made in conjunction with established Duval County school board policy," Frazier said in a statement. "That policy clearly states that ‘A request to change a school’s name can come from students, parents, alumni, or the community serving that school.’”

On Monday, Frazier said the Coalition is planning to hold a demonstration at 5 p.m. outside DCPS headquarters ahead of the 6 p.m. school board meeting.

Frazier said that one of the major goals of the confederacy was to “keep and perpetuate slavery." He listed Robert E. Lee High School, J.E.B Stuart Middle School, Stonewall Jackson Elementary School, Joseph Finegan Elementary School and Jefferson Davis Middle School as schools that should remove names.

Denise O’Steen, who graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1975, said she was proud to attend the school and thought highly of its namesake confederate general.

“It was like an honor, a privilege to go to that high school and it had nothing to do with the confederacy," O’Steen said. "We thought of him as a great man.”

O’Steen’s classmate, Larry Greer, opposes the name change as well.

“Robert E. Lee High School is a big difference from 200 years ago, fighting in a war,” Greer said. “But, I know the way the process works and if that’s what the people want, then that’s what we should do.”

For Greer, thinking of the name “Robert E. Lee” is a reminder and representation of his high school, not the symbol of the confederacy. It’s those memories, Greer said, he wants unchanged and untarnished.

The school board states that the superintendent or any school board member can submit a written request to to change a school’s name. While community input is desired and highly valued, the board has final authority over the name of any school.