FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — A northern Virginia city has renamed schools honoring Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, founding fathers who also owned slaves.
Instead of honoring the nation’s third president, Thomas Jefferson Elementary will now be known as Oak Street Elementary. The school board in Falls Church City also voted Tuesday to rename George Mason High to Meridian High.
The school board said it chose Meridian to represent the school’s international perspective; a meridian is a global line of longitude that runs through both poles. The name also pays homage to the fact that Falls Church City lies on the original 1791 meridian delineating the border between Virginia and the District of Columbia.
In addition, a name beginning with ‘M’ fits with the school’s existing ‘M’ logo and Mustang nickname. Other potential choices included Metropolitan, Metro View, Tinner Hill and West End.
The school board had voted unanimously in December to remove the George Mason name and select a new one. Mason authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which served as a template for the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Both Mason and Jefferson were prominent landowners in Virginia who owned numerous enslaved people.