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Prince William School Board Renames Stonewall MS, Stonewall Jackson HS

Image of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School by Prince William County Schools

The Prince William County School Board approved resolutions to rename Stonewall Middle School as Unity Braxton Middle School and to rename the auditorium at Unity Braxton Middle School after long-time principal John G. Miller. The School Board also approved a resolution renaming Stonewall Jackson High School as Unity Reed High School.

The School Board naming committees held two public input sessions to hear recommendations from community members. They received 775 suggestions.

Jennifer Wall, Gainesville District and member of the renaming committee, shared the difficulty of the decision due to the many great recommendations. She also explained the use of unity in the name.

Unity represents the desire we have for our students at this time,” she said. “It means at one with others. It is oneness. This unity is possible because of Celestine and Carroll Braxton. It is my honor to support the name Unity Braxton Middle School.”

“Unity is exactly what our community needs,” said Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef, also a member of the committee.

Unity Braxton Middle School honors Celestine S. and Carroll Braxton, “two trailblazers advocating for equal rights their entire lives.” Celestine served as an educator in Prince William County Public Schools for 33 years. She taught at Antioch-Macrae Elementary School in Haymarket, during a period when Virginia schools were racially segregated. She retired in 1983 after teaching at Marsteller and Stonewall Middle Schools.

Carroll Braxton was a Master Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, and a Congressional Gold Medal Recipient. He is one of 20,000 African-American Marines from 1942-1949, who received basic training at a segregated facility, Camp Montford Point, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He served honorably in World War II and the Korean War, serving as a combat instructor, retiring in 1980.

Miller served as the principal of Stonewall Middle School for the past 18 years and is one of the longest-tenured principals in PWCS. The resolution states that, “the auditorium was Mr. Miller’s favorite place in the school because this was the center of empowering students by celebrating their successes in many ways, including quarterly and yearly awards and musical concerts.”

He has dedicated the last 20 years to this school as an assistant principal and principal. He embodies so much of what is good at this school.

“He (Miller) is loved by his school and he loves his school,” said Adele Jackson, Brentsville District and member of the naming committee.

Unity Reed High School honors the legacy of Arthur Reed, long-time security assistant at Stonewall Jackson High School, who was beloved by students and staff.

“He (Mr. Reed) saw Stonewall students for who they were,” Jackson said. “He embodied the name unity. He loved his school and his students.”

“It is really great when we have an engaged community,” Wall said. “There are just so many great people that could be on the name of this school, but ultimately the students have an outpouring of love and respect for this African-American man, Mr. Reed, a man who is the embodiment of the school. He had a huge impact within the school community.”

The resolution shares that “the name ‘Arthur Reed’ reflects a lifelong legacy and dedication to education in Prince William County, representing leadership, respect, pride, strength, and perseverance.”

“This change should have happened long ago. This is a result of a grassroots effort of community members,” Lateef said. “There were a lot of things said about the importance of making this change and this is something I am very proud to be a part of. Mr. Reed was held in such high regard by the students and it was overwhelming the amount of support that he received.”

The resolution also recognizes that Arthur Reed was the clear favorite amongst the Stonewall Jackson community for renaming of the school. Furthermore, the resolution recognizes the fact that a school’s name should bring diverse communities together and unite them under a common vision and ideal.

The School Division will work with the building principals on next steps in the renaming process.

Background- by Bristow Beat 

The renaming of the schools comes after the police killing of George Floyd reignited the Black Lives Matter movement. All around the country Confederate monument are coming down, and there has been a strong push by citizens to rename schools that reference the Confederacy.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was the a Confederate general who led troops in Antietam, Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. It was at the Battle of Manassas, a.k.a. First Battle of Bull Run, in July of 1861, where he earned the name “Stonewall.” Bull Run/Manassas Battlefield is located just miles from the two schools.

But students and recent graduates were overwhelmingly in favor of renaming the schools. The Manassas schools have had a minority-majority population of Latino and black students for at least a decade now, as new schools  opened in the area to accommodate growing populations west of Manassas. Redrawing of boundaries for Battlefield High School (2004) and Patriot High School (2011) have taken students from western Prince William out of Stonewall Jackson High School, which opened in 1972. The new Gainesville High School to open in 2021, will redraw boundaries again, something a group of students and recent graduates advocated against.

There was still controversy over renaming the school and there was a contingency of alumni who wished to keep the names unchanged.

Prince William Schools are not the only to be renamed in Virginia. A Stonewall Jackson statue was also removed in Richmond. Some Richmond City schools named for Confederate generals have also been renamed.

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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