Letters to the Editor from June 11 – 17, 2020
Mason’s Worthy of School Name Due to Seminal Influence in U.S.
I oppose any name change for George Mason High School. I graduated from GMHS in ‘67, my older brother in ‘65, my sister in ‘70, my youngest brother in ‘81, and my two daughters in ‘98 and in 2001.
As a history major, I find this talk of removing names of historical figures is starting to get way too politically correct. Use this sole standard and George Washington’s name would need to be removed universally, since he was a slave owner, too. Seven other U.S. presidents were slaveholders. We recognize the accomplishments of many people, even though they had their shortcomings.
George Mason was a Virginia patriot. Once independence was declared in 1776, he was the principle architect of Virginia’s Declaration of Rights. In 1787, Mason, Washington, and James Madison (also a slave owner — later elected our 4th president) were Virginia delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. There, Mason vigorously opposed the provision that allowed the slave trade to continue until 1808 (despite himself a slaveholder), referring to it as “disgraceful to mankind.” His further criticism of the rights given to the federal government over the people and states led to the adoption of the concepts in the Virginia’s Declaration of Rights becoming our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
I urge our school board to look at how George Mason University has handled the acknowledgement of George Mason as a slaveholder without going so far as to change the university’s name. It is well thought out and admirable.
Look at his full accomplishments, not just that one element of his person. It is misguided to condemn a man now for what was acceptable in his day though certainly unacceptable in ours. We learn from history, not erase it. Teach our students about George Mason – the good as well as the bad. Being a slaveholder in his time, like so many others were, does not and should not cancel out his name and appreciation for his contribution to our Constitution. The work now is rather to ensure the Constitution and the Bill of Rights apply to all Americans.
Lou Olom Should Replace Mason As New School’s Name
Ms. Teates is right. This paper and many local citizens fought for Justice against a local high school named for a figure who fought for slaveowners and the institution of slavery. George Mason was the 2nd largest slave owner in Fairfax County. If we know high schools shouldn’t honor men who fought for slaveowners how can our own high school honor a slaveowner and the very reason for the Confederacy?
As for the “he was a man of his times” excuse, that one hears from time to time, George Mason was the consummate wealthy and powerful white man of his times in Virginia: a plantation owner with approximately 300 slaves he inherited from his father. Any and all anti-slavery rhetoric he many of espoused or “principled positions” he may have taken on the outside is belied by the fact he profited off the labor of his slaves during his lifetime. He never freed his slaves or make provisions to support them.
Other than GMHS there is only 1 other grade school named for Mason in the entire US. Traditionally new school buildings in FCCPS are named for local figures of importance to the school system. George Mason Middle School became Mary Ellen Henderson. I can think of no better time to once and for all disassociate the City from George Mason and instead honor Lou Olom. The FCNP obit of Mr. Olom lists every reason he deserves the honor. If not him, the City of Falls Church HS should bear and honor the name of one of our own who was committed to FCCPS.
When I dropped off my son’s books at GMHS there were protestors calling for a name change from George Mason the slaveholder to a new name. The issue of changing GMHS’s name for this very reason was brought to the Administration, School Board, and City Council a long time ago. I wish they had taken action before the need to not have a slaveholder represent the City of Falls Church is so obvious.
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