Ben Franklin’s face graces U.S. currency and was a Founding-era abolitionist, but some officials in Texas may soon remove his name from one middle school over a “connection to Confederacy.”
Dallas Independent School District is conducting an investigation into numerous schools in the wake of a national debate over monuments and historical figures associated with slavery. The move, which may also affect Thomas Jefferson High School, comes one month after a monument protest in Charlottesville, Viriginia, ended in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
“This was just a very quick review of looking at the biographies of the individuals,” DISD chief of school leadership Stephanie Elizalde recently told trustees, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday. “And if there was any association with Confederacy — not making a judgment for or against — just if we saw Confederacy named in it, we then highlighted it. We are now in the process of doing a second [look].”
Trustee Dustin Marshall objected to the idea that a school named after Franklin — a key Founding Father who signed the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution — somehow warrants concern.
“I will not support a name change for Franklin since Benjamin Franklin clearly had many accomplishments that form the basis for why the school was named after him,” Mr. Marshall said Saturday on Facebook, the newspaper reported. “I don’t believe this school was named after Franklin to send a signal of oppression and control.”
Franklin died in 1790 and Jefferson in 1826, both decades before the South seceded.
Both men owned slaves at some point in their lives, and Jefferson’s wealth was largely based on it. However, by the time of the Founding era, Franklin had become an outspoken slavery opponent, leading America’s first abolitionist society and railing against Britain for allowing slavery to flourish in the colonies.
Four schools that are already scheduled to be renamed include:
Albert Sidney Johnston Elementary School 2. William L. Cabell Elementary School 3. Stonewall Jackson Elementary School Robert E. Lee Elementary School
A timeline for for when officials would decide the fate of at least 20 schools was not provided.
“The bright line distinction that we’re looking for here — and I absolutely want to avoid a slippery-slope situation — is not whether they were a general or a brigadier general, but whether the school was named in order to honor that individual specifically for their role in the Confederacy,” Mr. Marshall said.
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