SPRINGFIELD, Va. — Virginia's largest school system is removing the name of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from one of its high schools in favor of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
The board voted Thursday to rename Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia — a Washington, D.C. suburb — after the late congressman and civil rights leader.
A news release posted on the school district's website says the new name will be effective for the 2020-21 school year.
"Rep. Lewis was a champion of the Civil Rights movement, and our Board strongly believes this is an appropriate tribute to an individual who is a true American hero," School Board Chair Ricardy Anderson said in a statement. "We will also honor his life's work by continuing to promote equity, justice, tolerance and service in the work that we do."
"The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community," said Tamara Derenak Kaufax, a board member representing the high school's district. "Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and members of the community feel safe and supported. I believe that John Lewis' extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come."
Other names under consideration included Barack Obama, Cesar Chavez, Mildred Loving, Central Springfield and Legacy.
The change comes nearly three years after the school system removed the name of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart from another high school.
Several high schools across the country named for Confederate generals have chosen to select new names following monthslong protests against police brutality and systemic racism.
Lewis, a civil rights icon, died last week.