San Francisco school board votes to rename schools

San Francisco’s school board has voted to rename schools honoring George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. 

The former presidents are among the historical figures set to be struck off as namesakes of the area’s public schools,

Others on the list include Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to the national anthem, former presidents William McKinley, James Garfield, James Monroe and Herbert Hoover, Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere and author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Even current senator Dianne Feinstein does not escape due to allegations she replaced a damaged Confederate flag outside of City Hall  when she was mayor in 1986.

The controversial move follows a 6-1 vote among school board members on Tuesday to rename 44 schools in light of a wave of anti-racism protests that swept the country last summer. 

George Washington

George Washington

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Former presidents George Washington, left, and Abraham Lincoln, right, were among the historical figures set to be removed as namesakes of San Francisco’s public schools 

Replacing signage at the 44  schools will cost more than $400,000 but this could rise to more than $1million to include new uniforms and gymnasium floors.   The move went ahead despite a budget deficit.

Critics attacked the board for spending all their time at the meeting discussing  renaming the schools and failed to mentioning reopening schools following the coronavirus shutdowns.

Others said the appropriateness of school names did not put the figures into historical context and the research process had involved using Wikipedia to back up claims. 

In the case of Roosevelt Middle School, it wasn’t clear if the board knew which former President Roosevelt it was named for, but decided to have it removed anyway  

Abrahan Lincoln High School. A San Francisco school names advisory committee recommended to remove Abraham Lincoln's name from the school for the 16th President's past treatment of Native Americans

Abrahan Lincoln High School. A San Francisco school names advisory committee recommended to remove Abraham Lincoln's name from the school for the 16th President's past treatment of Native Americans

Abrahan Lincoln High School. A San Francisco school names advisory committee recommended to remove Abraham Lincoln’s name from the school for the 16th President’s past treatment of Native Americans

Feinstein Elementary, which takes its name from current U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (pictured above), is set to undergo a change due to an incident with a Confederate flag in 1986

Feinstein Elementary, which takes its name from current U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (pictured above), is set to undergo a change due to an incident with a Confederate flag in 1986

Feinstein Elementary, which takes its name from current U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (pictured above), is set to undergo a change due to an incident with a Confederate flag in 1986

Board member Kevine Boggess, who supported the resolution, said: ‘I think we need to examine our naming policies across the district and really consider how the way we go about naming schools reflects our true values.’ 

Washington and Jefferson’s statuses as slave owners made them subjects of controversy. 

Lincoln often expressed that slavery was morally wrong, although critics claim his administration was detrimental to Native Americans. 

The school board voted in 2018 to establish a task force to study the names of district schools and determine which ones would need to be replaced. 

The plans were moved forward in early 2020 and criteria included slave owners, colonizers, and those associated with genocide or oppression.  

Mayor London Breed said the school board should instead be focusing on reopening schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic 

‘It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends,’ she said, according to a report in Courthouse News.

 And US Senator for Arkansas Tom Cotton said: ‘San Francisco can’t figure out how to safely open schools. But they have the time and energy to cancel Abraham Lincoln.’

Feinstein replaced a damaged Confederate flag outside of City Hall while she was San Francisco city mayor. Dianne Feinstein Elementary is pictured above

Feinstein replaced a damaged Confederate flag outside of City Hall while she was San Francisco city mayor. Dianne Feinstein Elementary is pictured above

Feinstein replaced a damaged Confederate flag outside of City Hall while she was San Francisco city mayor. Dianne Feinstein Elementary is pictured above 

The decision was criticized on Twitter, with some people saying it was taking ‘cancel culture’ too far. 

‘Cancel culture run amok!!’ One person remarked. 

‘Mark my words…this thinking will haunt us,’ another commented.  

‘This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. SF School Board is incompetent,’ said another. 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S RACIAL LEGACY

  • Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky
  • He was president from 1861-65
  • He was shot dead in April 1865 in DC  

In 1854 in Peoria, Illinois, he declared his opposition to slavery, saying: ‘My ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal’; and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.’ 

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the country moved into the third year of the Civil War. 

Lincoln’s proclamation had declared ‘that all persons held as slaves’ within the rebellious states ‘are, and henceforward shall be free.’ 

***  

In 1852 Lincoln said he rejected ‘both extremes’ on the slavery debate. 

Lincoln said in 1858 he was against racial equality: ‘There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality.’

In 1862 Lincoln told black leaders during a visit to the White House that they were to blame for the Civil War, saying: ‘But for your presence amongst us, there would be no war.’ 

Lincoln told journalist Horace Greeley his priority was saving the union, saying: ‘If I could save the union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that.’

Frederick Douglass in 1876 said Lincoln was ‘preeminently the white man’s president, entirely devoted to the welfare of white men’. Douglass continued: ‘He was ready and willing at any time during the first years of his administration to deny, postpone, and sacrifice the rights of humanity in the colored people to promote the welfare of the white people of this country.’

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