Opinion: Letter to the Editor: If Not Now, When? Rename Alexandria’s High School

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: If Not Now, When? Rename Alexandria’s High School

To Chairperson Anderson and School Board Members:

Shared with the Gazette Packet

On behalf of the membership of the Departmental Progressive Club which includes many T.C. Williams High School alumni, we strongly and urgently request that the Alexandria School Board adopt and unanimously pass a resolution to remove the name of T.C. Williams from Alexandria’s public high school effective immediately. It is insulting and hurtful that the Alexandria School Board would require the students of one of the most culturally diverse schools in the nation to spend another day in a building named in honor of a blatant racist and segregationist.

The Departmental Progressive Club was founded in 1927 in response to a government sponsored discriminatory law mandating racial segregation in all places of public entertainment and assembly, effectively barring African Americans from all public facilities which also included the library. Among the many things our institution provided was safe harbor for African American parents and children of Alexandria to read and to study.

During the course of its 93 years, our membership has witnessed and participated in the transformation of the City. Our members have been trailblazers in the fight for equality and civil rights. It includes current and past members of Alexandria’s City Council and School Board. Our building sits in a community that was once home to the families of the majority of our membership. Alexandria has made progress since 1927. It is time for the School Board to join in this change and progress.

Unfortunately, the renaming of Alexandria’s only high school is not a new issue. For nearly twenty years, the Alexandria NAACP under the leadership of Howard Woodson and other organizations tried to right this wrong. Those organizations pleaded with the City and the School Board to find a more suitable name for our high school that properly reflected the diversity of the Alexandria community and respected the sensibilities of our students of Color. The excuses offered now are reminiscent of those offered for the past two decades. Now is the time to step away from all such excuses and correct the injustice.

If not now, when?

When speaking about the proposed civil rights bill during the historic March on Washington in 1963, the late Congressman John Lewis said “we do not want our freedom gradually we want to be free now … We are tired of being patient. We want our freedom and we want it now.”

Similarly, we are tired of being patient about this issue. We have waited for decades for this matter to be addressed and the time is now for the School Board to act upon the clearly stated desires of the community and to do the right thing by abandoning the name of an acknowledged racist for this community’s only high school. The School Board has the power now to right an injustice and insult to Alexandria’s diverse population. The Departmental Progressive Club implores the School Board to use its power.

Merrick T. Malone, President

Departmental Progressive Club