D.C. Renaming Proposals Scrutinized

Will the names Hyde, Addison, Jackson, Stoddert and Key be expunged in D.C.?

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Mayor Muriel Bowser looks out over the section of 16th Street NW now known as Black Lives Matter Plaza. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah. Courtesy Office of the Mayor.

What do Hyde-Addison School, Stoddert School and Key School — as well as the Jackson Arts Center and Key Bridge Boathouse Center — have in common? Their names are on the chopping block, thanks to a D.C. commission on renaming public monuments, parks and schools.

Looking at the turmoil over statues and names attached to buildings in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, Mayor Muriel Bowser created and charged the District of Columbia Facilities And Commemorative Expressions (DCFACES) Working Group with “evaluating named DC Government-owned facilities and making recommendations as to what, if any, actions need to be taken if the namesake is inconsistent with DC values and in some way encouraged the oppression of African Americans and other communities of color or contributed to our long history of systemic racism.”

The report stated: “Survey respondents were encouraged to provide information on DC or Federal Government public spaces, or commemorative works that do not align with District values. Woodrow Wilson High School, Francis Griffith Newlands Memorial Fountain, the J. Edgar Hoover building, the Andrew Jackson Statue and the Emancipation Memorial were the most cited public assets not in alignment with District values.”

Read the full report at mayor.dc.gov/dcfaces.

The report’s recommendations, issued this week, earned comments from pundits and politicians, especially those involved in local and national politics.

Several observers, who support the mayor’s intentions, questioned the timing of Bowser’s release of the report during the presidential campaign.

President Donald Trump was quick to react, calling Bowser a “radically liberal mayor.” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) understood that the federal monuments, such as those for Washington or Jefferson, would have explanatory panels added nearby, a process known as contextualizing. She told the Washington Post: “It would be absurd to try and diminish the very historic contributions of men who were truly great men. Great men can have flaws.”

Ward 2 Council member Brooke Pinto told The Georgetowner: “The renaming of our streets and statues to honor the contributions of minorities and women is a crucial step in that effort to clarify that the sins of our past and present will not be glorified. … I applaud Mayor Bowser and her administration for taking the necessary steps to ensure that every trace and vestige of systemic racism will be removed from the District’s property and infrastructures and, through that action, eventually from the hearts and minds of many people. I encourage the community to remain engaged in this process to build the community we can all be proud of.”

Nevertheless, DCFACES co-chairs Beverly Perry, senior advisor to the mayor, and Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the DC Public Library, wrote in the introduction to the report: “The District of Columbia is unique among other jurisdictions, serving as the seat of the federal government and home to 702,000 proud Washingtonians. In this space, monuments, memorials, statues and parks are named after national figures. In District- owned facilities — students attend schools, senior citizens receive services, families reside in housing complexes, residents conduct business and visitors enjoy parks and libraries named after some of these same figures.

“To ensure these individuals reflect contemporary DC values, you formed the working group District of Columbia Facilities and Commemorative Expressions (DCFACES). Since July 15, we have worked with eight working group members and more than twenty staff members to engage residents, examine policy and conduct research in making the recommendations contained herein. Our decision-making prism focused on key disqualifying histories, including participation in slavery, systemic racism, mistreatment of, or actions that suppressed equality for, persons of color, women and LGBTQ communities and violation of the DC Human Right Act.”

In its analysis, the working group “reviewed the namesake legacy of 153 assets, including schools, residential housing, streets, neighborhoods, parks, recreation centers, libraries and monuments … and reviewed those listed as ‘red’ persons of concern.”

Public schools under review are:

1. Bell Multicultural High School (Alexander Graham Bell)

2. Brent Elementary School (Robert Brent)

3. Brookland Middle School (Jehiel Brooks)

4. Bruce-Monroe Elementary School @ Park View (James Monroe)

5. Excel Academy/Lee Montessori PCS – East End (at Birney School) (James Birney)

6. Eliot-Hine Middle School (Charles William Eliot)

7. Hyde-Addison Elementary School (Anthony T. Hyde, Henry Addison)

8. Jefferson Middle School (Thomas Jefferson)

9. Key Elementary School (Francis Scott Key)

10. Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School (Zachary Taylor)

11. Maury Elementary School (John Walker Maury)

12. Seaton Elementary School (William Winston Seaton)

13. Stoddert Elementary School (Benjamin Stoddert)

14. Thomson Elementary School (Strong John Thomson)

15. Tyler Elementary School (John Tyler)

16. Van Ness Elementary School (John Peter Van Ness)

17. West Education Campus (Joseph Rodman West)

18. Woodrow Wilson High School (Woodrow Wilson)

19. Bridges PCS Sharpe Campus (C. Melvin Sharpe)

20. DC Prep PCS, Benning Elementary (William Benning)

21. Emery School (CHOICE Academy) (Matthew Gault Emery)

Buildings or campuses under review are:

1. Arthur Capper Senior Housing (Arthur Capper)

2. Barry Farm Dwellings (James D. Barry)

3. Benning Terrace (William Benning)

4. Carroll Apartments (Daniel Carroll of Duddington)

5. Greenleaf Gardens (family and senior) (James Greenleaf)

6. Stoddert Terrace (Benjamin Stoddert)

7. Potomac Job Corps Center, Thomas Jefferson Hall (Thomas Jefferson)

8. Potomac Job Corps Center, Tyler Hall (John Tyler)

9. Potomac Job Corps Center, Woodrow Wilson Hall (Woodrow Wilson)

Fields or playgrounds under review are:

1. Barry Farm Playground (James D. Barry)

2. Benning Stoddert Playground, Garden (William Benning, Benjamin Stoddert)

3. Brentwood Playground, Brentwood Hamilton Field (Robert Brent)

4. Bruce-Monroe Community Garden (James Monroe)

5. Emery Heights Playground, Garden (Matthew Gault Emery)

6. Foxhall Playground (Henry Foxall)

7. Jefferson Field (Thomas Jefferson)

8. Guy Mason Playground (Guy Mason)

9. Harrison Playground (William Henry Harrison)

10. King-Greenleaf Playground (James Greenleaf)

11. Stoddert Playground (Benjamin Stoddert)

12. Upshur Playground (Abel P. Upshur)

The working group added: “Commemoration on a District of Columbia asset is a high honor reserved for esteemed persons with a legacy that merits recognition. The DCFACES Working Group assessed the legacy of District namesakes, with consideration to the following factors:

1. Participation in slavery — did research and evidence find a history of enslaving other humans, or otherwise supporting the institution of slavery?

2. Involvement in systemic racism — did research and evidence find the namesake serving as an author of policy, legislation or actions that suppressed persons of color and women?

3. Support for oppression — did research and evidence find the namesake endorsed and participated in the oppression of persons color and/or women?

4. Involvement in supremacist agenda — did research and evidence suggest that the namesake was a member of any supremacist organization?

5. Violation of District human rights laws — did research and evidence find the namesake committed a violation of the DC Human Right Act, in whole or part, including discrimination against protected traits such as age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and natural origin?”

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