DC School Changes Name After Discovering Slave Owning Ties

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By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, mgreen@54.204.251.142

A school in Southeast, D.C. underwent major renovations before opening its doors to students on Monday, and of the $52 million in changes to the school, the cheapest and most meaningful was updating its name.

The school, formerly known as Benjamin Grayson Orr, was named after a slave holder and the city’s fourth mayor, and will now be called Lawrence Boone Elementary, the school’s first Black principal.

An image of the former Benjamin Grayson Orr elementary school, named after the city’s fourth mayor, who was a slaveholder. Now the school is named after its first Black principal, Lawrence Boone. (Google Maps)

According to WAMU, the school community precipitated the name change after learning about the slaveholding history of Orr, who was elected to a two-year term as D.C. mayor in 1817.

“As students and as faculty and as people involved in the school, we were like, ‘Well, as a predominantly Black school, could we have that name represent us, our student body,’” Kelly Jones told WAMU.  “And the students were just like, ‘No, that’s not right.”

The Root reported that almost all of the school’s 400 students are Black.

The name update also comes at a time when several names and symbols tied to slaveholders and the Confederacy are being changed even in the Washington metropolitan area.

For instance in Fairfax County, Virginia, J.E.B. Stuart High School was changed to Justice High School, taking effect this July, according to The Root.

Yet for members of the former Orr community, the name change is significant as it also brings up warm nostalgia.

“You never really thought you were actually coming to school. You thought you were going to a grandparents’ house. That’s pretty much how he made you feel,” Eric Hodges, a student who attended the school in the 90s, told WAMU.