A Southern school ditched its name to be called Barack Obama Elementary. Here's why.

It began with just one student in Jackson, Mississippi.

After having learned about a prominent Confederate leader and discussing his lasting legacy on the world, the student raised a good (if not painfully obvious) question to her mom at home: Why in the world would her school be named after a guy like that?


Yes, Jefferson Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary School is named after that Jefferson Davis — a president of the Confederacy in the mid-19th century.

Jefferson Davis. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

After the girl's mother brought the issue to the school's PTA, the conversation surrounding a name change began making waves among community members. More and more people — including the students at Davis Elementary — agreed: The school's name needed to go.

PTA president Janelle Jefferson told NBC News the young students were well aware of who the school — which has a student body that's 96% black — was honoring through its name and what it meant for kids like them: "They know who [Davis] was and what he stood for."

“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” Jefferson expressed to the school board earlier this fall.

In September, the district's school board voted in favor of giving the PTA the authority to change the school's name.

So, as Jefferson explained to Mississippi Today, the PTA gave students, teachers, and community members two weeks to submit ideas on who the school should be named after before a public in-person vote on Oct. 5.

Before ballots were cast, kids from each classroom gave a presentation on who they believed should have the honor.

Barack Obama — notably, the students' favorite — won.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Starting next school year, Jefferson Davis International Baccalaureate Elementary will be Barack Obama International Baccalaureate Elementary.

“We really wanted to know what they thought,” Jefferson said of making sure to include the students' input. “They could relate to Barack Obama because of his achievements, because he looks like them.”

The school's name change comes amid a heated national debate over the place of Confederate monuments in public spaces.

In August, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in protest of the college town's decision to remove a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee. The march unraveled into chaos, as one white supremacist reportedly ran over peaceful counter-protester Heather Heyer with his vehicle, killing her.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, a number of communities — including Baltimore and Tampa Bay, Florida — made moves to rid prominent Confederate monuments from public places. Although there's ample resistance from many people — including the president — that falsely argue removing these statues "erases history," advocates for change are finding where there's a will, there's a way.

It's a lesson students at Jefferson Davis (soon to be Barack Obama) International Baccalaureate Elementary School have learned well.

“The history you have to come to terms with is not the easiest thing to think about or talk about, especially with kids," Jefferson said. "But the positive came for me that our kids can see that there’s a process to it. They saw something wrong, and now they know they can change it.”

Most Shared
Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Last month, the Chicago Public Library system became the largest in the country to eliminate late fees thanks to Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot.

While the move, which was implemented October 1, was intended to "remove unfair barriers to basic library access, especially for youth and low-income patrons," it had another positive outcome. Since the removal of overdue fees, along with the elimination of any outstanding charges on people's accounts, libraries across the city saw a surge in the return of overdue books over the last several weeks.

"The amount of books returned has increased by 240 percent…We're very, very happy to have that. … Those books have a value and cost money to buy. We want those assets back. We also want the patron to come back," Library Commissioner Andrea Telli said at a City Council budget hearing, the Chicago-Sun Times reports.

According to a press release from Lightfoot, late fees rarely have the impact they're intended to. "Research from other fine-free systems has indicated that fines do not increase return rates, and further that the cost of collecting and maintaining overdue fees often outweighs the revenue generated by them."

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

We all know that social media can be a cesspool of trolly negativity, but sometimes a story comes along that totally restores your faith in the whole thing. Enter the KFC proposal that started off being mocked and ended up with a swarm of support from individuals and companies who united to give the couple an experience to remember.

Facebook user Tae Spears shared the story with screenshots from Twitter, and the response has been overwhelming.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via Twitter / ESPN

Madison Square Garden in New York City is known for having hosted some legendary performances. George Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh in '71, Billy Joel's 12 sellouts in '06, and Carmelo Anthony's 62 points in a 2014 victory against the Charlotte Bobcats, just to name a few.

But it's hard to imagine one person holding the legendary arena in the palm of their hand quite like Pete DuPré, better known as "Harmonica Pete," did on Veterans Day.

Keep Reading Show less
popular