Photo courtesy of Stefan Fatsis
Removing Woodrow Wilson from our school’s namesake is an undeniably urgent matter. But the significance of this coming change goes beyond our disavowal of the former president —our next title will last decades. Finding a new name requires a serious reflection on our priorities: do we commemorate an educator or a politician? The convenient name or one that strives for racial justice?
Upon evaluating the identity and values of our community, The Beacon has decided to endorse Edna B. Jackson to represent our school. Following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954, Jackson became one of the first Black teachers at an all-white Wilson. She continued as a dedicated teacher here for over 20 years.
As a Black woman, Jackson’s intersectional identity is the antithesis of President Wilson’s. Her legacy is uniquely intertwined with our school’s past endeavors for equality. Honoring Jackson is key to distancing ourselves from the racism of President Wilson and doing our community justice.
Jackson would be the first woman, and furthermore, the first Black woman, to have a DCPS high school named after her. In a district and school with so many Black girls, to choose another white or male namesake would be doing a disservice to a portion of our population that is too often underrepresented. As the first of many DCPS schools to be renamed, Wilson must set a clear precedent on how to address the lack of diversity in our titles. Choosing a Black woman is the best way to do that.
Beyond her identity, Jackson’s impact on our community cannot be quantified––her influence as a Black pioneer in a majority-white population, as a teacher to countless students, and as a role model to teens, parents, and colleagues, demands recognition.
While teachers are some of the most essential members of a school and society, they are rarely honored with so much as a plaque. Naming our school after Jackson is more than a meaningful gesture; it’s a message to the underappreciated, yet immensely valuable, local heroes in this community––that teachers matter just as much, if not more, than any president or famous figure.
Jackson’s advocacy for integration, Advanced Placement, and Black studies courses had a direct impact on Wilson. Her association with our school represents a sense of community that cannot be achieved by naming it after a one-dimensional dignitary or exclusive location.
In favoring Jackson for her connection to our school, we recognize that Vincent E. Reed deserves an honorable mention. Like Jackson, the connections and changes created by Reed during his time as Wilson’s first Black principal (1968-69) made a profoundly personal impact on the community, forging lasting progress that continued into his time as DCPS’s superintendent of schools. Renaming Wilson after Reed or Jackson would be a powerful move in celebrating the influence and accomplishments of our school’s Black educators.
As the public input survey comes to a close on December 11, we strongly urge the Mayor and Chancellor to choose Edna B. Jackson as our future namesake.