People want Robert E. Lee Elementary School name changed

Posted at 11:30 AM, Jun 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-13 18:17:30-04

East Tampa community members are renewing a call to strip the name off a Tampa elementary school and rename it. 

Robert E. Lee Elementary was named in honor of the Confederate War General around 19-17 according to the city historians and archivists.

Some community members are asking the school's name be changed to Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian.

"Why don't we remove General Washington from the dollar bill? Right? Is he next? Who's next?," said local attorney Andrew Strickland holding up a dollar bill speaking to Hillsborough County School Board members.

His name and legacy mean different things to different people.

"It's time for you all to have the guts to stand up to stand up and correct a wrong. It was wrong then. It's wrong now," said Bishop Michelle B. Patty, Community Activist. 

For James Cole, who was once a fourth grader at Lee Elementary, it represents racism and oppression.

"I have this memory of walking up the stairs and seeing this giant picture of him thinking this guy must be some sort of hero," he told school board members.

Of the 288 students who go to class at the magnet school, 57 percent are African American. 

The school was named Michigan Avenue Grammar School in 1906 but renamed after General Lee around 1917 according to city archives and historians. 

Some community members warn against revising history. 

"Changing historical names is not something to be taken lightly and I do not do so. Historical names should not be changed out of some ephemeral whim or passing fad of political correctness," said David McAllister, Sons of Confederate Veterans. 

Others argue renaming the school isn't rewriting history. Instead it's respecting the future of kids who attend class here. 

"This is a symbol and you know what symbols do. They have meaning far beyond what's pasted on that building," said another speaker. 

If the name changes, it will be a long process. Hillsborough County requires 18 months of public input before a deciding school board vote.