The Fairfax County School Board has reportedly voted to rename Fairfax, Virginia’s Robert E. Lee High School to honor the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis.
According to an announcement on Thursday (July 23), the change will go into effect for the 2020-21 school year. Board members in the suburban Washington D.C. district voted on the change on June 23, however, they had been deliberating over a new name for it over the past few weeks.
In a statement, board chair Ricardy Anderson said his district wanted to better reflect the school’s multicultural student body and faculty after concerns were raised by the community over the previous name, which honored the Confederate general.
“Rep. Lewis was a champion of the Civil Rights movement, and our Board strongly believes this is an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero,” Anderson said. “We will also honor his life’s work by continuing to promote equity, justice, tolerance and service in the work that we do.”
John Lewis passed away at the age of 80 on July 17 after battling pancreatic cancer since December 2019. He represented Georgia’s 5th District and was a civil rights icon for over six decades.
Lewis was also known for chairing and confounding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He led the march that was halted by police violence on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965, a landmark event in the history of the civil rights movement that later became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
The decision comes during reemerging conversations over renaming institutions once bearing the title of a controversial figure in America’s past. They also reignited amid weeks of protests and marches calling for an end to systemic racism in the U.S.