DC Council to hold final vote on Wilson name change

Hadley Carr, News Editor

Tomorrow, The DC Council will hold the final vote needed to rename Woodrow Wilson High School to Jackson-Reed High School, in honor of two pioneering Black educators. However, a movement to name the school exclusively after Edna B. Jackson has put the outcome of the vote in question. 

On December 21, if the Council votes to approve the name “Jackson-Reed”, the bill will be sent to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who would then sign or veto the bill. The name honors Edna B. Jackson, the first Black female teacher, and Vincent Reed, the first Black principal. 

However, if the name Edna B. Jackson is proposed by the council instead, the process will be delayed, requiring two additional votes before sending the legislation for the mayor’s approval. 

The name “Jackson-Reed” honors two pioneering Black educators at Wilson: Edna B. Jackson, the first Black female teacher, and Vincent Reed, the first Black principal. 

All council members voted in favor of the bill, except for Vincent Gray, who was absent, and Janeese Lewis George, who abstained, voting “present.” Prior to the vote, Lewis George noted that she supported renaming the school exclusively for Jackson, who was hired in 1955 after Brown vs. Board of Education required school desegregation. 

“I can’t let the DC native, black, woman, brilliant teacher who endured more than most of us could endure be the compromise piece here.” Lewis George said.

Citing Jackson’s niece Paula Duckett’s editorial piece in the Washington Post, Corrine Douglas urged members of the community to email DC Council members to rename the school for Jackson.

Douglas’ advocacy follows an editorial by the Washington Post and the Washington Teacher’s Union support of Jackson. While Douglas notes Reed as a worthy candidate, she feels that “the Mayor and Council can name any of them for Vincent Reed, as he was superintendent of them all.” 

 In late May 2021, DC Council received the mayor’s proposal of the Black playwright, August Wilson, as the new name, aligning with the Chancellor’s proposal. The Chancellor recommended August Wilson based upon the results of a public survey completed in December 2020.

However, following large pushback from the Wilson community and outside organizations, the DC Council amended the bill to Jackson-Reed. Testimony from Wilson staff, alumni, and organizations formed the majority of the support for Edna Jackson and Vincent Reed. 

Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman noted that the process was difficult to explain to the school community, but ultimately “we have someone who was a great principal, someone who was a great teacher, [the] first African American teacher at Woodrow Wilson High School.” •