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Board Votes Against Renaming School to Honor Obama

John Lewis' name will now replace that of Jefferson
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2021 5:29 PM CDT

(Newser) – A middle school in Illinois is ditching the name of the third president—but it won't be taking the name of the 44th one. At a meeting Tuesday, the Waukegan Board of Education voted 5-2 in favor of renaming Thomas Jefferson Middle School after late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, reports Fox. The board decided to rename the school because Jefferson was a slaveowner. Other leading contenders for the new name were Barack and Michelle Obama Middle School or Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez Middle School, but activists pushed back against the Obama suggestion, citing the millions of deportations during his presidency, the Hill reports. Waukegan, just north of Chicago, is more than 50% Latino.

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Board members felt Lewis, who died last year, paved the way for the first Black president, CBS2 reports. Waukegan School Board President Brandon Ewing, who voted to rename the school after Lewis, said Obama was a "great president" but "nobody's legacies are perfect" and "we have a responsibility to listen to all constituents and weigh that in whatever decision we make." He described Lewis as someone who "embodies what we want to teach our students, and that is how to get into good trouble." The board also decided to rename Daniel Webster Middle School after civil rights actvist Edith Smith because the former secretary of state had defended slavery, reports ABC7. (In his eulogy for Lewis, Obama described him as a founding father of a better America.)

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