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.
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.”
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 …
“… 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.”