Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B will consider a resolution to change the names of two neighborhood schools named after slaveholders at their Tuesday, July 14 meeting.
The resolution asks the DC Council to change the names of John Tyler Elementary (1001 G St. SE) and Robert Brent Elementary School (301 North Carolina Ave. SE) ‘as soon as possible’, and requests the Committee of the Whole to markup a bill introduced last year to establish a committee tasked with examining and making recommendations about controversial sites throughout the District.
Bill B23-0234 was introduced April 2, 2019 to require the Mayor to establish a commission that would study monuments, markers and symbols and make recommendations on places and place names “that are seen as oppressive and inconsistent with District of Columbia values.” Although a public hearing on the bill was held in January of this year, it stalled before reaching the Committee of the Whole for markup.
Citing the background of Tyler and Brent as “enslavers and traitorous leaders,” the resolution calls for the names to be changed as soon as possible. “The views, actions, and perspective of Robert Brent and John Tyler were abhorrent in their time and do not reflect the community values of ANC 6B to this day,” reads the resolution. The document also affirms the efforts of school communities to change school names.
ANC6B is voting Tuesday on a resolution to support changing the names of Tyler and Brent Elementary Schools. Sharing copy of the resolution.
— Denise Rucker Krepp (@kdrkrepp) July 11, 2020
John Tyler was the tenth president of the United States. According to the White House Historical Society, John Tyler not only owned more than 26 slaves, but after his term as president ended, was also elected to the Confederate Congress. When he died in 1862, he was buried under the Confederate Flag. The first school that bears his name was built in 1890, with the first building on the current location in 1950, initially a segregated white school.
Robert Brent was the First Mayor of Washington, serving from 1802 to 1812. According to Washington: A History of Our National City, in 1808, the same year the Constitution forbade slave importation, Brent and his council enacted restrictive Black Codes forbidding non-white people from dancing, quarreling, “playing at any game of hazard or ball”, or to be on the streets at all after 10 p.m. Penalties were increased in 1812, and free blacks were forced register with the city and carry proof of their freedom. Brent School was established on the site of a previous school in 1883. According to a 2009 history by The Hill is Home, the Brentwood Neighborhood takes its name from the family estate once located just to the south.
100% the process should be school led. The resolution says that we believe the name should be changed but the process should happen at the school level. While also encouraging the council to stop sitting on a bill that systematically evaluates all school/building/street names.
— Corey Holman (@coreyholman) July 11, 2020
On Twitter, Commissioner Corey Holman (6B06) said that the resolution deals only with schools within the boundaries of ANC 6B, but acknowledged that there are other problematic school names in the area, including John Maury Elementary (located in ANC 6A), named after another former mayor who also owned slaves, and Jefferson Middle School (in ANC 6D), named for President Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves and fathered children by one of them, a woman called Sally Hemmings.
According to DC Public School Naming Policy, any person or organization may submit a proposed change of name, together with a community engagement process and the costs and timeline of a name change. The chancellor then reviews the request, rendering a decision in 30 days. The mayor has the final decision on name changes.
ANC 6B welcomes comments on the resolution. You can email [email protected] or your individual commissioner. The vote takes place at the full meeting of ANC 6B, held via Webex Tuesday, July 14 at 7 p.m. You can get more information on how to join the meeting at the ANC 6B website.