T.C. Williams High School, the Virginia institution featured in the 2000 film Remember The Titans, is facing calls to change its name in light of its namesake’s racist views, The Washington Post reported.
The film, for those not familiar, tells the true-life story of the 1971 football season at the Alexandria school. Though the film takes some liberties with the facts, the basic outline and events of the plot are more or less true to real life. Denzel Washington plays coach Herman Boone, a Black man who led the recently-integrated team to a perfect season, capped off by a state championship. Along the way, the team battles racism within the players, the parents, the town, and other outside forces.
Though the film presents a positive message about overcoming racism, the reality is that the school, 50 years after the events of the movie, still wrestles with racism, in that it’s named for a man who was openly and unambiguously racist.
Thomas Chambliss “T.C.” Williams served as superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools from the 1930s to the 1960s. During his tenure, he steadfastly resisted integrating the city’s schools, promoted the discredited idea that Black kids and white kids learn differently, and fired a Black cafeteria worker when she added her name to a lawsuit aimed at ending segregation in Alexandria schools.
“Having to go to a school named for someone who doesn’t see you as human is unbearable. It’s essential to change the name,” Josefina Owusu, a Black student, said.
Over the past 30 years, efforts have been launched to change the institution’s name, all of which went nowhere. However, in the light of the George Floyd protests, which have already prompted other school districts to change the names of schools named for Confederate fighters or other people with connections to racism, the plea to rename T.C. Williams is gaining traction. Indeed, last month, the school board voted to begin a “robust public engagement process” to discuss changing the school’s name.
However, not everyone affiliated with the school is on board with the idea.
Greg Paspatis, who graduated from T.C. Williams in 1978, said that the institution is one of the most famous schools in the country because of the movie.
“If you change the name, there will be confusion, and people will forget what happened there,” he stated.
Meanwhile, some students are participating in a sort of daily protest against the school’s moniker. As Alexandria Now reported, students — and other members of the community — have taken to placing a tarp over the school marquee every day in order to obscure its name.