On October 10, 2023, 4 Public Education co-founder Vanessa Hall spoke at a hearing in support of the proposal to rename W. T. Woodson High School. The hearing was held at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Virginia. Ms Hall, mother of two children who attend the high school, said “We must change the name of W.T. Woodson High School, because segregationist names should not grace our children’s schools…“I’ve heard people say, ‘We didn’t know who he was.’ Well, I’m here to say that generations of Black families who were prohibited from attending any high school in Fairfax County knew.”
Of the nine public speakers, eight spoke in favor of renaming the school, including one parent who asked to change the mascot, as well, since the Cavaliers of Virginia, a local KKK chapter, was housed only a mile away from W.T. Woodson in a former FCPS school, which is now the Fairfax History Museum. A couple of speakers discussed potential names for the school.
Why is Fairfax County looking to change the name of W.T. Woodson High School? Not only did W.T. Woodson support Massive Resistance, but he actively underfunded and undereducated Black students for three decades as Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent from 1929-1961. There is significant evidence that he didn’t just follow orders from Governor Byrd in Richmond, but fully embraced segregationist beliefs as evidenced by news reports and a 1959 letter to the school board stating that the “order to desegregate schools is highly improper and infringes on human rights.”
If the vote is yes, then the School Board will proceed with the renaming process and the Superintendent will present recommendations for a name which will begin a second round of public engagement including:
An online feedback form (open from 10/18-11/1/23).
A community meeting at Woodson High School on October 23rd from 7:30-8:30pm.
A Public Hearing at Luther Jackson Middle School on October 24th beginning at 5:30 pm.
Final action by the School Board on a resolution to rename the facility at the November 9th meeting.
FCPS has a website where you can learn more about the process to rename W.T. Woodson High School.