The majority Black school district in Jackson, Miss., is renaming one of its schools, which is currently named after a Confederate president, after the nation’s first Black president.
Former President Barack Obama’s name will now grace what was formerly known as the Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary School.
The school will be known as Barack Obama IB Elementary School, beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
“The school community wanted to rename the campus to reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves,” said Janelle Jefferson, president of the school PTA, according to a statement posted on the school district’s website.
Ninety-seven percent of the students attending Jackson Public School District schools are Black, according to a district executive summary. And 98 percent of Davis IB’s students are Black, the Clarion-Ledger reported, citing 2017 enrollment demographics. (SchoolDigger.com, which ranks schools, reported that 95.1 percent of students are Black, 4.2 percent of students are white and less than 1 percent of students are two or more races.)
Jefferson Davis served as the first (and only) President of the Confederate States of America. He was born in Kentucky and raised in Mississippi. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Davis, a slaveholder, was elected president in 1861. In 1865, after the South surrendered, Davis was arrested and placed in prison on treason charges. He never stood trial. He and his family went abroad for a couple of years after his release before eventually returning to the United States. He died in New Orleans, La., in 1889.
Choosing to name the school after Obama was a no-brainer for the students after learning more about who Davis was, Jefferson told NBC News.
“They know who [Davis] was and what he stood for,” she told the outlet. “This has a great impact on them, because [Obama] is who they chose out of anybody else they could. This is the person that the whole school supported. He was their number one choice.”
Davis Magnet IB Elementary is a high-performing school; it was ranked number two out of 407 elementary schools in the state of Mississippi by SchoolDigger.com.
“[The schools] are largely concentrated in the South,” The Washington Post reported in August.
Huffington Post estimated the number to be at 191. Based on data available for 173 of the schools, HuffPost also calculated that of students attending schools named for Confederate leaders, 21 percent are Black — compared to 16 percent of Black students attending all public schools. White students make up exactly half of all public schools and only 41 percent of those named for Confederate figures.
Not including the newest name change in Jackson, there are 21 schools in the nation named after Barack or Michelle Obama (including one named after the couple), according to a count by Mother Jones. All of the schools (except one, for which demographics were not provided or not available) are minority-majority, whether it be primarily Black or Hispanic students. The Barack Obama Academy of International Studies in Pittsburgh, Penn., has the highest percentage of white students at 19 percent. Nearly three-quarters of the student population is Black.
“By comparison, George W. Bush has two schools named after him, in California and Texas,” Mother Jones reported.
In fact, according to Education Week, “More schools have already been named for Obama than any president since Ronald Reagan.”
Ed Week also reported, however, that students who attend these schools are almost sixty percent more likely to be eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch when compared to the national average. According to SchoolDigger.com, all the students at Davis Magnet IB Elementary qualify for free or reduced lunch.