Mississippi School Drops Jefferson Davis Moniker to Honor Barack Obama

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 19, 2017

As the nation struggles to reconcile its love of the Confederacy, the children at a public elementary school in Jackson, Mississippi, know exactly what to do. Beginning next fall, Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary School—which is named for Confederacy president Jefferson Davis—will be renamed Barack Obama International Baccalaureate Elementary School.

NBC News reports that the name change was approved at the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday (October 17).  The shift started with the suggestion of a student in August, PTA president Janelle Jefferson told the NBC.

The PTA asked the school community to submit suggestions for the updated name, then students researched the candidates and gave school-wide presentations about each of them ahead of a paper ballot vote on October 5.

The board’s policy specifies that schools must be named for “persons of good character and prominence who have made outstanding contributions to the school system,” and says that “special consideration will be given to those names that have special meaning to students and citizens.” It also says that “a facility named to honor a person shall not be renamed except for compelling reasons.”

“They know who [Davis] was and what he stood for,” Jefferson said. “This has a great impact on them, because [former President Barack Obama] is who they chose out of anybody else they could. This is the person that the whole school supported. He was their number one choice.”

Davis led the South when it attempted to leave the union to preserve the right to own Black people. Jefferson reports that 98 percent of the school’s students are Black.

“I applaud the efforts of our parents, staff, students and the community who participated in this open process,” principal Dr. Kathleen Grigsby said in a statement. “We will continue to honor the name of our school with high academic performance and achievement.”