Out with the old, in with the…better!
According to USA Today, Sidney Lanier Middle School was established over 60 years ago and was named after an American poet who also happened to be a private in the Confederate army. Now, it will be renamed to honor NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson.
Johnson is known for her contributions to helping NASA put the first man on the moon and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama at age 97 in 2015.
In September 2020, the Fairfax city school board made the decision after a majority of residents called to have the name changed.
Over 300 new names for the school were submitted and the approval to rename the school was made on Nov. 2, 2020.
Other names in the running included Fairfax Woods, Legacy Independence and City, and the late great Maya Angelou.
“Her contributions continued to serve the nation and helped ensure that the ‘Eagle had landed…and landed safely,'” said city school board member Jon Buttram in November. “So, I think it appropriate that the name Katherine Johnson for our middle school will inspire new generations of ‘Eagles’ for our community, and I look forward to watching them fly.”
Katherine Johnson Middle School has been approved for the 2021-22 school year and became official in a ceremony with Johnson’s family in attendance.
“We’re elated that they’ve chosen her names out of so many other names,” said Valerie Johnson, Katherine’s niece and a Fairfax County Public Schools math resource specialist in an interview with ABC Washington. “She had very humble beginnings, she wasn’t a prideful person, and she never really let people know about all her accomplishments. Even as a child, I did not really understand the magnitude of her work, but as I became an adult I learned about her great and important work at NASA and the fact that she really had superpowers, they were passion, perseverance, and courage.”
The renaming of the school is just one step toward a nationwide movement by social activists to remove monuments or school names with racist ties.