About 98 percent of current Davis students are black, Jefferson said. Parents, students and school staff were given two weeks to submit recommendations, and they voted using paper ballots on October 5. More than 130 public schools nationwide are named after Confederate leaders, largely in the South.
"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", said Janelle Jefferson at a meeting with the Jackson Public Schools (JPS) Board of Trustees on October 17. Students from each class at the school gave presentations on their favorite pick. The PTA president announced the planned change at a school board meeting Tuesday. Jefferson declined to identify the other names under consideration, saying the school wished to focus on the new name going forward.
It's unknown how expensive the name change will be, she said.
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Jefferson said the PTA solicited requests for names during a September 21 meeting. The school will now be called the Barack Obama Magnet IB. "They could relate to Barack Obama because of his achievements, because he looks like them", Jefferson said.
The name change will take effect next school year, officials said. "It's important not just in the symbolism of an elementary school, but here we're having a real genuine examination of our history in an elementary school - within the broader school system in Jackson - which is exactly where it needs to happen".
Davis, a former US senator and secretary of war, served as president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. The names of famous confederate leaders, meanwhile, can be found on campuses across the state. "Having a school where there was input from parents, teachers and students - along with the school board - it seems like a model for how these decisions should be approached across the country".
The violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last month intensified the debate over what place Confederate memorials have in society.