by CJ Staff
Jefferson Elementary School in New Jersey will change its name after students and staff launched a year-long effort to distance itself from its namesake, Thomas Jefferson, because of his slave ownership.
The South Orange Maplewood Board of Education voted 6–3 to change the school’s name in June.
Board member Qawi Telesford said at the time: “I want to make that point that Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 slaves. He freed two while he was alive and seven after he died, which basically means I have a 1.5 percent chance of being free in Thomas Jefferson’s world. So, I am not thankful to him. I am thankful to the people who made sure that I could actually be free and be on the board with you today.”
A sub-committee of fifth-grader voted to rename the school “Delia Bolden Elementary School,” after Winne Delia Bolden, the first black woman to graduate from Columbia High School in nearby Maplewood in 1912, NJ.com reported. The name won out over several other options, including “Ruth Bader Ginsberg Elementary School” and “New Legacy Elementary School.”
Superintendent of Schools Ronald Taylor celebrated the decision, saying the students work on the issue “exceeded the expectations of all of us who participated in that conversation” and that staff hoped to “really engage our students and make this a real-life civics lesson with really strong connections to governance.”
The district said it plans to complete the name change on campus and online by September 8.
The name change comes after the Waukegan Board of Education in Chicago also proposed renaming Thomas Jefferson Middle School last year over Jefferson’s slave ownership. Democrats on the New York City Council similarly elected to remove a statue of Jefferson from the council chamber in City Hall last year that had been there since 1834.