As Confederate statues come down across the country, a school in Mississippi has decided to go by a new name next school year: the Barack Obama Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary. The elementary school, whose student body is 98% black, was formerly named after Jefferson Davis, onetime president of the Confederate states.
Janelle Jefferson, the school’s PTA president, announced the name change at a Jackson County School Board meeting on Tuesday night. According to The Clarion Ledger, Jefferson noted the bitter irony of naming a predominately black school after a proud slave owner.
“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” she told the board.
The school board’s president, Camille Simms, said she “wholeheartedly agreed” with the school’s effort to rename itself after “a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves.”
Changing the school’s name, Jefferson told NBC News on Wednesday, was first broached by a student. “They know who [Davis] was and what he stood for. This has a great impact on them, because [Obama] is who they chose out of anybody else they could,” she said. “This is the person that the whole school supported. He was their number one choice.”
After a student initially brought up the idea of renaming the school, students were asked to submit nominations and present their suggestions to the board. At the beginning of October, students voted to rename their school after former President Obama — the nation’s first black president.