Patrick Henry High School will be getting a new name, after the Minneapolis school board on Tuesday directed the school community to begin the name change process.
The school board’s school names advisory committee, which was formed in 2020, had recommended a name change for the North Side high school because Patrick Henry — an 18th-century Virginia politician and leading proponent of independence before the Revolutionary War — owned enslaved people.
According to the resolution approved Tuesday, “students, staff, and community members recognize the need for a school name that better represents the values of the community.”
“I look forward to supporting Henry through this process as they continue to work toward a new school name,” said Board Member Kimberly Caprini, who sponsored the resolution. The high school’s community is changing and a new name will better represent the families it serves, she said.
The push for — and pushback against — a new moniker for the school isn’t new. A group of students and staff in 2017 brought forward objections to the school’s association with Henry. Some school alumni vocally opposed the name change, arguing that it amounted to rewriting history and would require expensive new signage.
After hours of heated debate in May 2018, the high school’s site council decided to postpone a vote on whether or not to change the school’s name.
The newly-approved resolution states that “ending the debate about whether or not the name should be changed will allow the Patrick Henry School Community to focus on developing a recommendation for the new name.”
The board’s 2022-23 budget includes a fund to help schools with the cost of new signage and branding for board-directed name changes.
Two other schools in the district, Sheridan Elementary and Jefferson Elementary, were respectively renamed Las Estrellas and Ella Baker this year. The process to change those names began in 2020.
Sheridan was named for Gen. Philip Henry Sheridan, a Civil War officer who led the relocation of Native Americans off the Great Plains and encouraged the extermination of buffalo. Jefferson was named for the founding father and third U.S. president who owned slaves.
Other area school districts have undergone similar conversations about buildings named for historical figures with checkered pasts.
A Mendota Heights high school in 2020 dropped the name of Henry Sibley, Minnesota’s first governor, because of Sibley’s role in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and the country’s largest mass execution; it’s now Two Rivers High School. In 2017, Ramsey Middle School in Minneapolis — named for Alexander Ramsey, who succeeded Sibley as governor — was renamed for former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page.
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