The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Fairfax County branch publicly announced on Sept. 6 that it is partnering with the two groups, Students for Change and Alumni for Change, who are seeking to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School to Thurgood Marshall High School.
“It is time for our public institutions, including our schools, to reflect the values and diversity of today’s citizens and not those held over from the days of segregation,” said Shirley Ginwright, president of the Fairfax County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. “We are committed to toppling every vestige of segregation within our county so that all citizens can feel welcome and supported.”
In May, Students for Change proposed that the name of their school be changed so that it no longer represented the values of the Confederacy but instead represented values that the diverse student body could emulate. It was later suggested that the school be renamed after the civil rights activist and U.S. Supreme Court justice who once lived in the school’s neighborhood.
In the wake of the Charleston church massacre in June, the initiative took on a sense of urgency and Alumni for Change, and then the Fairfax County Branch of the NAACP quickly signed on as supporters of the initiative.
“I think that the NAACP has done a lot for the cause,” said Lisa McQuail, East Coast chairman of Alumni for Change. “Because they’re are a national organization that knows how to do this sort of thing, this type of social action and when people know that we’re working with them it’s obvious that we have some experienced people working on the project.”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will honor the five students who started the movement to change the name of Stuart – Anna Rowan, Lidia Amanuel, Cassie Marcotty, Abby Conde and Marley Finley – its upcoming Freedom Fund Banquet on Sept. 19.
“The NAACP will continue to support the Students and Alumni for Change as they courageously and creatively work to move our county and our state forward,” Ginwright said.
The initiative to change the name of Stuart has gained momentum over the past month, with Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore and Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen, both Stuart alumni, creating a Change.org petition calling for the renaming of their alma mater.
“Bruce has always been involved with out alumni association,” McQuail said. “And he’s been really supportive of the alumni organization. And Julianne has a lot of issues that are close to her heart that she supports….She has a history of helping causes that she believes in.”
At first timid to push for the name change until after this year’s election, the Alumni for Change and Students for Change groups have been emboldened by the recent alliances they have formed and are pushing for action more urgently than before.
“I don’t think there’s any way to stop it being an issue before the election. It is an issue and we’re not going to do anything to prevent that or slow that down,” McQuail said. “We think this needs to be done immediately.”