This week, on the fourth anniversary of the Charlottesville rally, the Southern Poverty Law Center said it had documented at least 198 schools around the country with Confederate-themed names. Georgia led the pack with 45, and Texas came in a close second place with 40. (Conservatives regularly criticize the SPLC, insisting the watchdog includes run-of-the-mill right-wing groups on its annual hate group list.)
When white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-rightists rallied in Charlottesville on Aug. 12, 2017, they came to protest against the city’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate leader Robert E. Lee. That day, one far-right participant plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist counter-demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
Then, the country saw another wave of Confederate statues coming down, Confederate-themed schools, parks and roads being renamed and Confederate flags being removed from public buildings.
A similar trend had taken place in 2015, when white nationalist gunman Dylann Roof stormed a church in South Carolina and killed 11 Black worshippers. Last summer, after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, protests against Confederate monuments again cropped up around the country.
Across the country, at least 85 schools have ditched their Confederate names, the Alabama-based watchdog said. Another 21 nationwide have pledged to change their names but haven’t yet delivered, including six in Texas.
“School districts that continue supporting the Confederacy must reexamine the message being conveyed to students, staff and the communities they serve who are directly affected by the pain and oppression these names and images represent,” Lecia Brooks, the SPLC’s chief of staff, said in a press release.
"Removing namesakes that celebrate a revisionist Confederate past does not erase history, it corrects it." - Lecia Brooks, Southern Poverty Law Center
“Further, educators can’t seriously be expected to teach students that being openly racist is wrong or be expected to learn in buildings branded for proslavery men who proudly dehumanized human beings for personal and economic gain,” Brooks added.
According to the SPLC’s tally, Dallas is still home to at least 20 displays of Confederate iconography, including some 11 schools.
“We also call on the other 198 schools that still bear the names of Confederates to put the needs of students and communities first by renaming their schools after someone all Americans can be proud of,” Brooks said. “Removing namesakes that celebrate a revisionist Confederate past does not erase history, it corrects it.”
In recent years, Dallas has removed or changed several such displays, including its own statue of Robert E. Lee, which was sold and is now located at a private golf course in South Texas. Still, several Confederate monuments still stand tall around North Texas, especially in several small communities.
In some North Texas communities, including Gainesville, Kaufman and Weatherford, protests last summer met opposition from city and county officials as well as locals who opposed removing the monuments.
The fourth anniversary of the Charlottesville violence comes at a time when Republican lawmakers in Texas, including Gov. Greg Abbott, are cracking down on critical race theory. A slate of new laws have banned teaching critical race theory in schools, but critics say the state's GOP merely wants to make it harder to teach about racism in schools.
In March, the Dallas ISD board of trustees voted to rename three Confederate-themed campuses throughout the district.
“I don’t think this is at all controversial,” Dan Micciche, a trustee who proposed the DISD name changes, told The Dallas Morning News at the time. “The change that I’m suggesting is consistent with everything we’re trying to do to improve diversity, equity and inclusion.”