"I think the students of this school deserve better than that moniker."
Actress Julianne Moore thinks it's time for her high school to rebrand and rename itself.
Moore and producer Bruce Cohen authored a Change.org petition asking the Fairfax County School Board to consider changing the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School, located in Falls Church, Virginia, to Thurgood Marshall High School, in honor of the first African-American Supreme Court justice.
So, who was J.E.B. Stuart, anyway? And why is it time for a change?
Stuart was a major general in the Confederate Army.
He is perhaps best known for his role in Gen. Robert E. Lee's Gettysburg campaign. Depending on the source, some argue that Stuart's lateness to a crucial meet-up with Lee cost the Confederacy that key battle. Others argue that Stuart was little more than history's scapegoat for those desperate to pin blame on the loss on anyone but Lee.
Moore's petition points to the recent killing of nine church members in Charleston, S.C., as the reason behind her push.
In the '70's, when Moore and Cohen attended J.E.B. Stuart, the school's logo was, as they say in the petition, "Stuart riding a horse and waving the Confederate flag." They also note that the Confederate flag was at the center of the school's basketball court and used on athletic letter jackets until 2001.
From the petition (emphasis added):
"No one should have to apologize for the name of the public high school you attended and the history of racism it represents, as we and so many alumni of Stuart have felt the need to do our whole lives. ... The killings of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist who proudly flew and wore the Confederate battle flag was a tragic reminder of how these symbols of hate continue to fuel racism and violence. And it's sparked a national conversation about the appropriateness of honoring the Confederacy, especially in institutions of learning."
Moore also delivered this statement to The Washington Post:
"We name our buildings, monuments, and parks after exalted and heroic individuals as a way to honor them, and inspire ourselves to do better and reach for more in our own lives. It is reprehensible to me that in this day and age a school should carry and celebrate the name of a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings. I think the students of this school deserve better than that moniker."
It's worth noting that it's not at all unheard of for a school to rename itself.
One of the most obvious arguments against renaming the school is that it's been this way for a long time (since 1959). However, this hasn't stopped other schools from following through.
"In 2013, a father in Jacksonville, Florida launched a successful petition on Change.org to rename Nathan Bedford Forrest High School," Cohen and Moore write in their petition. "Forrest was a Confederate General and leader of the Ku Klux Klan."
It should be interesting to see how this plays out. According to the petition, Moore and Cohen have the support of current students, alumni, a number of others from the local community, and beyond.