Call it a series of high stakes field trips – where parents peppered historians with questions on board three packed busses. Historical markers grew smaller in the rear view mirror, as the future of a high school’s name drew near.
Facing an approaching decision on whether to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School, members of a school board subcommittee launched three bus tours Sunday, with the goal of highlighting historical sites connected to the Confederate Army general.
From fortifications to replicas of decoy cannons, each site is within a 10-minute drive from the school – all connected to Stuart’s headquarters near Union territory. Historians hoped the tours would put the school’s name in better context, as segments of the community and the NAACP fight to change the name.
“Five hundred yards from J.E.B. Stuart High School, is Munson’s Hill,” said Civil War historian Edward T. Wenzel on board one of the busses. “That was Stuart's headquarters when he commanded the forward outpost.”
Personnel organizing the tours said the 45-minute excursions are meant to educate the public before a decision on the name is expected in June. Many of the defenses and structures connected to Stuart’s command in the area have been lost to development, with the school name one of the few existing reminders of the neighborhood’s past.
“People are very polarized on both sides,” said J.E.B. High School student Victoria Haver in an interview. “It's either, 'you're a racist and a bigot because you don't want the name changed,' or 'you hate America and you hate our history, because you do want it changed.'”
In the near term, a community meeting concerning the issue is set for Tuesday, May 23, in the school’s auditorium. All are invited to attend from 7 – 9 p.m.