‘ALEXANDRIA SPEAKS’: Why Stonewall Jackson Middle School Needs a New Name

Hundreds poured into the streets of Charleston WV on June 20, to call for renaming Stonewall Jackson Middle School on the city’s West Side. | Screen shot from WestVirginiaVille.com video

UPDATE: July 3, 2020: This July 1, 2020, WestVirginiaVille.com video and post, “Alexandria Speaks, features comments at public gatherings over the question of renaming Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston, WV. The video concludes with an impassioned plea by a Stonewall Jackson student, who says of the Confederate general: “Stonewall Jackson was a Confederate soldier. He fought to keep slavery. He raped, he raped slaves, and he beat them half to death. Why would we name a school after someone who did that?” We received a comment that there was no historical evidence Jackson ever raped slaves or beat slaves nearly to death. In checking with several historians, we find no initial evidence in the historical record that Jackson engaged in such behaviors. We add this note as a clarification to the video. We leave readers to their own conclusions about the brutal system of enslavement that Jackson’s career—as among the most prominent and successful Confederate generals—sought to protect and preserve. ~ Douglas John Imbrognno, editor, WestVirginiaVille.com

By Douglas John Imbrogno | july 1.2020

Confederate statues are coming down across America as a renewed civil rights movement sweeps the country. Attention has also swung to the many schools and institutions across the land named in honor of Confederate soldiers, who fought to preserve slavery and the brutal hegemony of the South over the lives of generations of African-Americans.

In the capital city of West Virginia, the Kanawha County Board of Education will consider whether to rename Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston on Monday, July 6. In the past few weeks, marches and public gatherings have raised community voices in favor of stripping Stonewall Jackson’s name from the middle school.

Below is the first of a series of WestVirginiaVille.com videos about the name change and the deep and painful issues behind it as Americans reckons with racism, systematic police brutality and the unhealed wounds of slavery and the Civil War.

This first video features footage of a march on June 20, 2020, through the Charleston streets and a June 25 gathering with a Charleston minister taking suggestions for which African-American icons might be good candidates for a renamed Stonewall Jackson Middle School. The video concludes with a June 25 gathering on Charleston’s West Side at which Kanawha County school board member Tracy White—considered a swing vote in the decision—heard from community members.

These included three generations of one family who have attended the school. White heard an impassioned plea by 13-year-old Alexandria Plear as to why it is long-since time to sweep Stonewall Jackson’s name from any connection with her school. 

“Alexandria Speaks” | A WestVirginiaVille.com video

TEXT of “Alexandria Speaks” Video | july1.2020

The Summer of 2020 sees an America in turmoil. Massive protests over police murders of African-Americans crowds streets and avenues. Confederate statues topple one after the other.

In West Virginia’s capital city of Charleston, weeks of protests and public meetings took on renaming Stonewall Jackson Middle School, named for a Confederate General born in what would become present-day West Virginia. Various speakers urged that the school be renamed at an upcoming July 6 board meeting.

At one gathering at Life Center church on Charleston’s West Side, Bishop Wayne Crozier of Abundant Life Ministries asked for suggestions on names of notable African Americans who would be good candidates for a renamed Stonewall. Jackson Middle School. 

“Anybody for Booker T. Washington? That’s an excellent suggestion. Can we put Booker T. on the list? So how many people for Reverend Paul Gilmer to be submitted? How many people think Leon Sullivan? Katherine Johnson? Number one? Is that what you’re saying? Is that our first choice? If you want the number one choice of our school to be Katherine Johnson stand on your feet.”

“I don’t want them to feel that they cannot come to me because they feel I’ve already made up my mind,” Kanawha County School Board member Tracy White told a June 25, 20202, community gathering in Charleston WV on renaming the city’s Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

In advance of Tuesday’s meeting, Tracy White, a  Kanawha County Board of Education member considered a swing vote, was asked to hear community voices regarding the name change

“The people who want to see the name change, I don’t want them to feel that they cannot come to me because they feel I’ve already made up my mind.”

Among those who spoke up were three generations of the same family—a grandmother, mother and daughter, all of whom have attended Stonewall Jackson in its various stages as a high school, middle school and junior high. 

The grandmother, Mary Wesley was the first black cheerleader at Stonewall Jackson high. Her 13-year-old granddaughter, Alexandria, took the microphone and had this to say.

“Hello, my name is Alexandria. I’m going to eighth grade and I’m 13-years-old. I do attend Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

“Stonewall Jackson was a Confederate soldier. He fought to keep slavery. He raped, he raped slaves, and he beat them half to death. Why would we name a school after someone who did that? The majority of the school is African-American and bi-racial. Why would we do that? That’s just offensive to our ancestors. 

“And it makes me feel so …

On June 25, 2020, 13-year-old Alexandria Plear implored Kanawha County School Board member Tracy White to rename Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston, WV | Screen shot from WestVirginiaVille.com video

“… it makes me feel so terrible that I go to a school named after a person who did that.

“How would you feel? How would you feel?! If someone took your family away, and then was named … the school is named after them.

“How would you feel?

“You would feel bad, right? Imagine how we all feel! Imagine—you cannot comprehend the pain that we feel.

“You may say, Oh, stop struggling. Segregation was not that long ago!

 “We were kept out of restaurants. We couldn’t use the same water fountains.

“I cannot see … I cannot see …

“We need change.

“We need change.”

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  • Civil War Historian

    Reply to Jeff P. We weren’t there. This girl wasn’t there. So, you’d say it went on and wasn’t recorded or talked about. How do you know? big assumption. also means it didn’t always go on, and the historical record states people like Jackson and even Lee were well respected and well liked. You’re doing a disservice to the slaves or freed slaves who decided to stick with the former masters they knew and work for them or be friends with them. They’re not all going to be victims of Stockholm syndrome.

  • admin

    We approved the comment and posted it this morning. Approving this one now. We pre-screen all comments because of spam.

  • Civil War historian

    We left comments the other day showing the girl is wrong about her comments on Stonewall Jackson raping and beating slaves. They haven’t appeared.

  • Jeff P

    Why should this matter? This is a classic “two wrongs make a right” ethical proposition. Even if Africans (or Arabs, or Jews) colluded in the slave trade, should white Americans be entitled to do whatever they pleased with the people who were unlucky enough to fall victim?

    It was common practice to beat slaves amongst other atrocious things. A lot of these practices weren’t done in public and some of the slave owners weren’t going to brag or write about these inhumane actions, they used to show the illusion of power, they had over their slaves. A lot of things weren’t going be told, because a lot of the history has been whitewashed to try to justify the owning of another human being guilt free. Slaves weren’t looked at as human, they were no different that livestock, chattel property to be exact. Where did she get from you ask? She got It from they “ He” fought to protect the same system, thought process and supremacist mindset that made it legal and in their minds moral to do so. Many slaves suffered from Stockholm syndrome: feelings of trust or affection felt in many cases of kidnapping or hostage-taking by a victim toward a captor, beat into submission if you will, eat or starve, survive. When something is all you know, you tend to know no different. That’s why a lot of them stay as a “companion”.

  • Civil War historian

    Where did that girl ever get the idea Stonewall Jackson raped slaves? That’s just not true! He was a religious man and was well liked by black community in Lexington before the Civil War from all historical accounts. There’s a lot more to the history of the Civil War and these men than many realize. People need to do some deep research and study. We’re not taught all of it in school.

    Stonewall Jackson arranged for freedom of a few household slaves he received through family connections. One stayed with him as companion for years. Jackson had a school for blacks to learn to read and write before the war through his church in Lexington. He didn’t believe in slavery but he believed in fair taxation and representation in Congress, states being sovereign states in a republic, which is way Constitution was set up originally.

    Confederate veterans after the Civil War were made U.S. Veterans again by three acts of Congress and the president after Abraham Lincoln.

    Black slave owners in southern states owned black slaves. So, are we gonna rename schools named after African-Americans because their ancestors might have been slave owners? The south had black Confederate regiments, too.

    Border and northern states had slaves that weren’t freed until after the Civil War. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the 1861 Corwin Amendment where the government offered legalized slavery to southern states if they would not secede from the union?

    These men like Jackson and Lee were distinguished men in combat and other accomplishments before the Civil War. Jackson was an excellent tactician and his methods are still studied. Lee was superintendent at one time at West Point, where he and Jackson both had graduated from.

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