(By Aubri Juhasz for WWNO) Nineteen New Orleans public school sites named after historical figures who helped advance white supremacy are officially up for possible renaming, according to a list released by the district this week.
Justin McCorkle, the district’s director of community relations, said Tuesday that the list is preliminary and could be expanded to include additional sites based on community feedback.
According to McCorkle, New Orleanians will play a large role in determining whether the sites on the list are ultimately renamed.
When a wave of racial reckoning swept over the country last summer, locals demanded action at home, including in the city’s public school system.
School board members overturned a policy preventing school name changes and issued a new one urging the district to rename facilities honoring slave owners, confederate officials and segregation supporters.
The district is now in the process of putting the new policy into practice. McCorkle is shepherding the district’s facility renaming initiative which kicked off last month.
“We are literally trying to do what wasn’t done during integration,” McCorkle said at a recent school board meeting.
While a push by community activists in the 1990s to rename schools honoring slave owners and white supremacists was largely successful — stripping away names like Beauregard, Lee and Davis — some names avoided close scrutiny.
This time around, the district tasked a group of historians and culture bearers with compiling a list of school sites that violate the board’s new policy.
Historian Ken Ducote, a professor at the University of Holy Cross and a member of the district’s review team, said just because a site gets flagged doesn’t necessarily mean it will be renamed.
“The question as to whether or not a building is renamed or remains named after an individual, that’s the school district’s question after they get the information from the historian review team,” Ducote said.
The final decision of whether to rename a site and who to name it after will be determined by the district’s superintendent based on recommendations compiled by McCorkle’s team.
McCorkle grew up attending New Orleans public schools and has stressed the need for stakeholder engagement and feedback throughout the renaming process.
“New Orleans is not like any other city in the country. We understand that the connection between community and the names on these buildings are different than anywhere else,” McCorkle said. “So a big part of the evaluation process is the community context.” Read more here.