A Virginia high school named after a Confederate general will now be named after Congressman John Lewis. The Fairfax County School Board announced the new name of the school — formerly known as Robert E. Lee High School — on Thursday (July 23), less than a week after Lewis’ death.
“The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” the school board member named Tamara Derenak Kaufax who proposed the name change told CNN affiliate WJLA.
According to CNN, the school board took comments from the public about the proposed name change for the past month. A virtual town hall and public hearing were also held before Thursday’s vote (July 23) to hear from the community.
“We heard from so many community members, students and alumni about the amazing things that John Lewis did during his life and I think many people would be proud to have that as the name of their school,” Kaufax said. “I think it would be an honor for the community as well as, I hope, the congressman’s family.”
President of the Fairfax County NAACP Sean Perryman also applauded the name change on Twitter.
“Y’all, we just renamed Robert E. Lee High School to John Lewis High School,” he wrote after the vote. When I was the education chair of [Fairfax County NAACP] in 2019, we were told we would never remove Lee from this community. We proved that we are this community. Step up and speak out, everyone!”
Lewis passed away on July 17 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. The civil rights icon was known for his work with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and leadership during the Freedom Riders movement. Lewis served as a representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district for three decades and passed away at 80 years old.
The John Lewis High School name change will go into effect this fall.