MINI-DOC | “What’s In a Name?” The Deeper Story Behind a WV Confederate Legacy


It’s a big ask in this short-attention span age. But with this post, we ask for 15 minutes of your attention. This WestVirginiaVille mini-documentary, “WHAT’S IN A NAME: A West Virginia Community Confronts a Confederate Legacy” (below), begins with this Summer’s successful effort to strip Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s name from a middle school in West Virginia’s capital city. But the video goes on to take a much deeper dive. Through wide-ranging interviews, the video considers the systemic, institutional racism that has bedeviled America since its founding.


CLICK TO WATCH. | A WestVirginiaVille.com Original Video.

The video and those interviewed consider the unhealed wounds of slavery; the legacy of the Civil War; the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and more. We talk with ministers, college professors, and attorneys. We hear from Stonewall Jackson High School’s first Black majorette. We hear from young middle school students, who object to their school being named for a Confederate soldier who fought to preserve slavery. With the resources and video transcript you’ll find below, we also encourage teachers, students, groups and individuals to ponder the legacy of racism and how to address the wounds which—as the video notes—“have haunted the country’s existence.”

~ Douglas John Imbrogno and Bobby Lee Messer, video co-producers


FOR TEACHERS and GROUPS INTERESTED IN USING THE VIDEO: Below are some suggested resources plus a video transcript. If you wish to use the video for your own discussions, here is the YouTube link: https://youtu.be/wwJnvR2hcmA.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE AN .mp4 of the video to re-post to your own site or archive, e-mail us at: heythere@westvirginiaville.com. NOTE: We are making the video available for use at no cost, but under the Creative Commons “Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND” license. This allows you to download and share the video with the credit line—’A WestVirginiaVille.com original video’—but not to change the video in any way or use it for commercial purposes. See more on the license terms here.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR FREE NEWSLETTER for notice of WestVirginiaVille’s continuing coverage of such important matters and issues: westvirginiaville.substack.com


RESOURCES for MORE DISCUSSION

GOT A RESOURCE TO SUGGEST? heythere@westvirginiaville.com


RACE: THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION”: The main interactive website for a comprehensive explanation of how race and privilege were established in the USA. | Online companion to California Newsreel’s 3-part documentary about race in society, science, and history. COMPANION WEBSITE


WHAT IS WHITE PRIVILEDGE, REALLY?: Recognizing white privilege begins with truly understanding the term itself.” | Article from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Tolerance” website, whose mission is “to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy.”


“BLACK STUDENTS AND EDUCATORS AT CONFEDERATE-NAMED SCHOOLS: In more than 100 U.S. schools, black educators and students see Confederate names on their walls, jerseys and diplomas. That’s a problem.” | Fall 2019 article on Teaching Tolerance website by Dr. Gregg Suzanne Ferguson of Marshall University.


“PLACE, NAMING, AND INTERPRETATION OF CULTURAL LANDSCAPE: “Naming, and the Interpretation of Cultural Landscapes.” | By Derek H. Alderman, of the University of Tennessee, who is the preeminent scholar on the cultural symbolism of place names.


STOP STONEWALLING PROGRESS ON CHARLESTON’S WEST SIDE: Professor Joshua Weishart of West Virginia University School of Law writes here about the constitutionality issue of public school naming.


STONEWALL JACKSON: Entry on Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson from the Clio site and app. (The noteworthy Clio project, developed by Marshall University professor David Trowbridge and students, includes histories, photographs, audio and video of almost 40,000 historic and cultural sites and localities across the nation.)


“JAMES BALDWIN’S FAITH IN AMERICA: Eddie Glaude Jr. on why James Baldwin thought the idea of white America was irredeemable — but the country wasn’t.” Glaude is author of the recently released and highly recommended book “BEGIN AGAIN: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.”


VIDEO SCRIPT


The mural at the former Stonewall Jackson Middle School—now renamed West Side Middle School—has been painted over, in the aftermath of the Kanawha County Board of Education’s unamious vote on Juky 6, 2020.

“WHAT’S IN A NAME: A West Virginia Community Confronts a Confederate Legacy.” | Oct. 8, 2020


PROLOGUE


SCREEN TEXT
In 2020, America confronted the wounds that have haunted the country’s existence. Reckonings with racism take place across the land.

THADDAUS BRACKENRIDGE (Rally attendee):
“So, I’m here today in support of the name change of Stonewall Jackson. As I think it’s very important that the representation of our history is also there to be around our children. So, that they are not around traumatic names whenever they’re growing up and learning.”


“When you create an insurgency against the Union, you pretty much label yourself as a traitor.” ~ Michael Beatty

MICHAEL BEATTY (Rally attendee):
“For one, Stonewall Jackson, which many would not consider a traitor, WAS a traitor. When you create an insurgency against the Union, you pretty much label yourself as a traitor.”

REV. FRANCES DuBOSE (Rally attendee):
“If we don’t start taking care of our own children, we don’t have a future. And that means your children, my children, all of God’s children. All of us—red and yellow, black and white—we’re all precious in his sight.”

DR. GREGG SUZANNE FERGUSON (interview):
“It was a really hot afternoon. Late afternoon. The strategy was that we would be out there in droves, to welcome the board as they came into the building. But I was the second speaker on the roster to speak. So, I went inside the building and waited my turn to speak while everyone else was outside chanting. There were lots of delirious activities happening. Flag snatchin’, song singin’—I missed all of that while I was inside.


“We seem to have forgotten what men like Jackson stood for.” ~ Navery Davis


KANAWHA COUNTY BOARD of EDUCATION BOARD MEETING, Charleston, WV, July 6, 2020
“Alright, now we’re going to go into our public hearing—the renaming of Stonewall Jackson Middle School.”

NAVERY DAVIS (speaking at the BOE meeting):
“From the cruel separation of families, to the widespread slaughter of indigenous peoples, these men have caused so much pain and suffering. We seem to have forgotten what men like Jackson stood for.”

KITTY DOOLEY (speaking at BOE meeting):
“I was a commissioned officer in the United States Army. I took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. This is an oath that Stonewall Jackson took. But he violated that oath.”

DR. GREGG SUZANNE FERGUSON (speaking at BOE meeting):
“So, I’m asking you all not to remain neutral. I’m asking y’all not to be those silent friends Martin Luther King talked about—the silence of his friends was louder than the shouts of his enemies.”


The Kanawha County Board of Education voted 5-0 to rename Stonewall Jackson Middle School on July 6, 2020, in Charleston WV.

SCREEN TEXT:
On July 6,2020, the Kanawha County Board of Education voted unanimously to rename Stonewall Jackson Middle School. The school had carried the general’s name since 1940. Protests over racism and Confederate history helped lead to the change.

DR. GREGG SUZANNE FERGUSON (interview):
“I left the building after my my speech. Came around the corner and I saw people gathered around a car. They were listening to the meeting. We were all kind of talking about who we thought would, um … Who would be the holdout. And so we listened and listened to all the other speakers speak.”

TAYLOR RAAB, Organizer (interview):
“And somebody had their car turned on which had the radio station playing. It wasn’t a clear signal, but we were able to hear most of the other people talk. And then we we’re able to hear the discussion.

“And… I don’t think I can put into words how happy and proud, not just me, but everybody was, when we heard … You know: 1-2-3-4-5. Five unanimous votes!”


SECTION 1 | THE WEST SIDE IN BLACK-AND-WHITE


“They were told by a Black administrator that ‘You’re going to have to start taking a bath and brushing your teeth. And making sure that you comb your hair.’ Because now we are going to school with white kids.” ~ Debra Hart, first Black majorette at Stonewall Jackson High School.

DEBRA HART, First Black majorette at Stonewall Jackson High School (interview):
“We had a very close-knit neighborhood. The West Side of Charleston at Seventh Avenue was a very mixed neighborhood. Black and white lived there together.”

PAUL PERFATER, Charleston WV attorney (interview):
“Yeah, I grew up on the West Side. Lived up a little behind the high school. Walked to school every day. Went to Robin’s Elementary, Lincoln Junior. And then Stonewall.”

DEBRA HART (interview):
“My mother graduated, she came to Charleston in 1956, in the middle of the academic year. And she tells a story of how they were called to the auditorium as Black students. And they were told by a Black administrator that: ‘You’re going to have to start taking a bath and brushing your teeth. And making sure that you comb your hair. Because now we are going to school with white kids.’


“She had said that she would tear the place down before she let ‘them‘ in.” ~ Paul Perfater


“And she would tell how they laughed among themselves—because they had come from good homes, as well, where they did all these things and [it was] nothing new. And they wondered whether or not the white kids had been called in to kind of do the same thing.”

PAUL PERFATER (interview):
“I had maybe three Black children in my classroom in the first grade. And that was in 1956. And I remember, my textbooks were still stamped in the front—that said ‘Property of West Virginia Free White Public Schools.’”

DEBRA HART (interview):
“I remember my grandmother bringing neighbors of all races to eat. You could go to Ernestine Walker’s house and have beans and cornbread. And we weren’t really raised to know that color mattered.”


“I always point out that, well, you only loved it you’re a white. Because no Black child ever roller skated at that roller skating rink.” ~ Paul Perfater

PAUL PERFATER (interview):
“They had a skating party, a birthday skating party. At a skating rink that was called Barlows. It had some other names, I think. The same woman owned it. She changed the name of it at some point—biggest racist on the West Side of Charleston. She had said that she would tear the place down before she let ‘them‘ in.

“So, this birthday party incident, the whole class was invited. We had one Black girl in the class. And I do remember her name, but she’s still alive, so…

“She showed up. And she wasn’t allowed in. Yeah, she stood outside and looked through the window. And I think back about it, that we had a segregated roller skating rink, in front of the high school, that to this day, people will post stories on Facebook about how much they loved that that skating rink.

“And I always point out that, well, you only loved if you’re a white. Because no Black child ever roller skated at that roller skating rink.”


SECTION 2 | ‘AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME’


“James Baldwin said: ‘To be a conscious Black man—a conscious Black man in America —is to be in a constant state of rage.’

DR. GREGG SUZANNE FERGUSON (interview):
“It was an idea whose time has come. You know, I tried unsuccessfully in 2015 to have the name changed. And it was met with hostility, in some cases—but not as much support from the Black community or the white community.

“Several were outspoken in 2015 with the news media coverage of my petition, then. And saying that there is no way that they would, you know, change the name. It ‘represented history—you can’t erase history.’ But their stance this time, they qualify: ‘Well, back then, this is where I was. And now this is where I am.’

“I was just stunned. They, one-by-one, talked about how they understood Black pain. And this is an all-white school board.”

KITTY DOOLEY (interview):
“Folks like myself and Dr. Ferguson—who challenge the systems of white supremacy— and the icons built to them, be they people or institutions or ideas, are made to feel as if we’re not patriotic. That we don’t love this country. And that we’re not a part of what makes America the country that it is.”


““A thorough education should certainly not glorify the Confederacy.” ~ Kitty Dooley


REV. WAYNE CROZIER (interview):
“James Baldwin said: ‘To be a conscious Black man—a conscious Black man in America —is to be in a constant state of rage.’ One of the things that is painful is to watch the murder of unarmed Black people by police.”

KITTY DOOLEY (interview):
“That’s why this moment in time, may be different from other moments and times when America has an awakening or an enlightenment as to race issues. And how those issues really impact all facets of our lives in this country.

“We’re not just talking about discrimination and how African-Americans and other people of color are treated differently in our society. And we’re not just talking about hate and hate speech.

“We’re talking about systemic and institutionalized racism.”


SECTION 3 | A COMMUNITY-WIDE EFFORT


“It felt like our school was cheering on someone who had stolen people from their homes. And, like, killed their families. He fought for that, he fought to keep that.” ~ Alexandria

TAYLOR RAAB (interview):
There was a march led by Bishop Wayne Crozier from his church on the East End, about three-quarters of a mile to the Board of Education. It was a Saturday. There was nobody at the board, but it was just a community event to show solidarity. And, you know, to support this move. And they had some people speak there…

KITTY DOOLEY (speaking at rally):
“A thorough education should certainly not glorify the Confederacy!”

LISTENER (at rally):
“Amen!”

KITTY DOOLEY (speaking at rally):
“It is time that this board vote unanimously to remove the name of Stonewall Jackson, from a middle school that is not only tasked with educating our children, but also provides that education to a student population that is almost 50% African-American.”

CHRIS SHINN (at rally):
“The gray of our school colors—red and gray—comes directly from Jackson’s Confederate uniform. And his likeness, brandishing a sword, is the mascot of our school. Let that sink in.”

LISTENER (at rally):
“Shameful!”


SECTION 4 | A CHILDREN’S CRUSADE


“It’s not right to have a name after a Confederate soldier who fought against our ancestors.” ~ Cam

ALEXANDRIA (on West Side playground):
“I just felt like we honestly needed a change in the community. Because Stonewall was a racist—and he was not a good person. And since the community is majority African-American, that’s offensive to our ancestors in our culture.

“It felt like our school was cheering on someone who had stolen people from their homes. And, like, killed their families. He fought for that, he fought to keep that.”


“If Stonewall Jackson and his side—the side he believed in, the Confederates—had won the war, could Cam and I be friends?” ~ Patch


CAM (on West Side playground):
“We’re not trying to change history. We’re just trying to move on and move forward and make a change in our lives. It’s not right to have a name after a Confederate soldier who fought against our ancestors. We’re trying to make a future for ourselves, our classmates, and future generations.”

PATCH (on West Side playground):
“If Stonewall Jackson and his side—the side he believed in, the Confederates—had won the war, could Cam and I be friends? Would we be equals? Or would I be—quote-unquote—’superior’ because of the color of my skin?”

ALEXANDRIA (on West Side playground):
“As people, we all need to care about each other, and be a decent human.”


SECTION 5 | UNHEALED WOUNDS


“We’re talking about systemic and institutionalized racism.” ~ Kitty Dooley

KITTY DOOLEY (interview):
“There’s a direct link between the history of slavery in America and the society in which we continue to live in 2020.

“And if I can say this… When you look at the murder of George Floyd, and the blatant indifference that we witnessed—we witnessed!— as he took his last breath, it bears striking resemblance to murders of slaves. And then following the Civil War, lynchings of African-Americans all across the South.

“And if you cannot see that—the similarities in those actions—then you are missing a teaching point.”

MARTIN LUTHER KING (historic footage of his April 4, 1968 “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop Speech, delivered in Memphis, Tenn., the day before he was assassinated):
“Somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly! Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech! Somewhere I read of the freedom of press! Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right!”


“There is a motivation on my part, and I think a lot of people’s part, to make sure things are better for our children and our grandchildren.” ~ Rev. Wayne Crozier


REV. WAYNE CROZIER (interview):
“I was in elementary school when Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I remembered them showing his funeral in our elementary school. And to still go through a lot of some of those same issues that they were dealing with, in the 60s, to still be dealing with that now, it really is painful.

“But there is a motivation on my part, and I think a lot of people’s part, to make sure things are better for our children and our grandchildren.”


“I was alone in the wilderness, crying out all these years, you know. And I was like, wow! But … but at the same time, I have so much hope for our future!” ~ Dr. Gregg Suzanne Ferguson

DEBRA HART (interview):
“I believe in social action. But I also have generations that are looking up to me right now, to say: ‘What do you have to say about this?’ So, the respect and honor that I have for my daughter and my family, bring me here first.


“It was important for me to do this to, to show her and to teach her that this is the way to change things.” ~ Taylor Raab


“When I think about my grandmother and her mother—the roots of where we come from—make me show up today, for tomorrow.”

TAYLOR RAAB (interview):
“I will note on all these events, I brought my oldest daughter with me—she’s 14 years old. And, you know, it was important to do this as a community. But on a personal level, it was important for me to do this to, to show her and to teach her that this is the way to change things.”

DR. GREGG SUZANNE FERGUSON (interview):
“When we were standing by the car and I heard the unanimous vote… You know, personally, I’ll be honest, it was vindication for me.

“I was like standing … I was alone in the wilderness, crying out all these years, you know. And I was like, wow! But … but at the same time, I have so much hope for our future!”


Rally march in July 2020, for changing the name of Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston WV

VIDEO CREDITS:

A PRODUCTION of WestVirginiaVille.com
PRODUCED BY: Douglas John Imbrogno and Bobby Lee Messer


SHOT and EDITED: Bobby Lee Messer
PLAYGROUND INTERVIEWS: Kyle Vass
ADDITIONAL MUSIC: Jarren Jackson
STILL PHOTOGRAPHY: Michael Farmer


SPECIAL THANKS:
Rev. Wayne Crozier
Kitty Dooley
Dr. Gregg Suzanne Ferguson
Debra Hart
Paul Perfater
Tiffany Plear
Taylor Raab
David Trowbridge


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