- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2020

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A majority-Black school in Mississippi is one step closer to being renamed for a Black leader or activist rather than a Confederate general.

Jackson Public Schools officials said in 2017 that the district would remove the names of Confederate figures from some schools. That included Lee Elementary, which is named for Robert E. Lee. About 96% of the school’s students are Black.

The district is now seeking community response after announcing last week that the Lee Renaming Committee has chosen several potential namesakes who are no longer living.

The semifinalists are former Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers; Alice Harden of Jackson, who was the first Black woman to serve in the Mississippi Senate; former Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba; civil rights activist Jessie Mosley; Aaron and Ollye Shirley, a husband and wife whose civil rights activism included voter registration; and novelist and poet Margaret Walker Alexander.

The Lee Renaming Committee will meet Sept. 30 to choose three finalists. The week of Nov. 2, students in the school will vote on a new name.

In 2017, the Jackson school board renamed the state’s top-ranked elementary school for former President Barack Obama. The former Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary School, near the state Capitol building, was previously named for Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The new name, Barack H. Obama Elementary Magnet school, took effect during the 2018-19 school year. About 97% of students at Obama Elementary are Black.

The Jackson school board closed George Elementary at the start of the 2018-19 school year because of low enrollment and high maintenance costs for an old building. The school was named for James Zachariah George, who signed Mississippi’s secession ordinance and drafted the state constitution that denied voting rights to Black citizens.


Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus.

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