J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Virginia, counts two Oscar winners as part of its alumni. If one such Oscar winner has her way, she’ll soon be able to revise the school’s name on her educational resume. Julianne Moore is part of a campaign to rename the school after former Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and remove the reference to Stuart, who was a Confederate general.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Moore explained her reasoning.
“We name our buildings, monuments, and parks after exalted and heroic individuals as a way to honor them, and inspire ourselves to do better and reach for more in our own lives. It is reprehensible to me that in this day and age a school should carry and celebrate the name of a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings. I think the students of this school deserve better than that moniker.”
As the Post explained, the school opened in 1959. The choice to name the school after Stuart was widely understood to be a deliberate affront to the desegregation of schools, which happened only five years before.
The campaign to rename the school began with a group of students and alumni in June, in response to the shootings of nine African-American parishioners in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. That event prompted many individuals and organizations throughout the U.S. to protest Confederate symbols. In mid-July, Charleston removed the Confederate flag that flew at the capitol for decades, as ABC News reported.
Julianne Moore launched a petition to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart with her former classmate Bruce Cohen, himself an Oscar winner. As of Tuesday evening the petition had achieved more than 30,000 signatures.
In response to the petition, Pat Hynes, chair of the Fairfax County School Board, provided a statement to CNN.
“Recent events across the country have raised important questions about the symbols we choose to represent our communities. In Fairfax, this includes the names of some of our school buildings. We recognize that there are legitimate concerns of students, parents and communities in these schools and whether those names best reflect their community.
“We also recognize that there are historic, legacy, and financial concerns in making changes in the names of schools. Current and former students have initiated this dialogue and we will work with our communities to hear all sides of this discussion and work collaboratively to address this issue.”
According to the school’s website, J.E.B. Stuart now serves a diverse student population, two-thirds of which are second language learners from 70 countries.
Julianne Moore attended the school from 1975 to 1977 before moving to Germany, where she graduated high school.
[Photo by Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images Entertainment]