Illinois school renamed to honor John Lewis, after ‘Obama’ proposal sparked backlash

on Apr14
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Thomas Jefferson Middle School, located in Waukegan, Illinois, will officially undergo a name change as the founding father’s legacy as a slave owner continues to stir controversy. 

The school will now be renamed John Lewis Middle School, in honor of the late civil rights icon and former Democratic congressman of Georgia.

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Another idea in contention for the school’s name change was “Barack and Michelle Obama Middle School,” which had the backing of board members Anita Hanna and Jeff McBride. 

Despite many members of the public speaking passionately during Tuesday night’s board meeting in support of using the Obama name, Waukegan School Board President Brandon Ewing ultimately pushed back against the idea.

“I think [Obama] was a great president and he did things to move us forward,” Ewing said, according to Fox 32. “But just like we’re having the discussion about Thomas Jefferson, all men are flawed and nobody’s legacies are perfect. I think we have a responsibility to listen to all constituents and weigh that in whatever decision we make.”

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The proposal to use the Obamas’ name sparked backlash among a group of Latino activists last month, who argued that the school board should be more conscious about the message it’s sending to immigrant families in the community given the Obama administration’s track record on deportations.

Three million people were deported during Obama’s eight years in office. A Washington Post report in 2019 found that Obama deported far more in the first three years in office than did President Trump. The Obama administration deported 1.18 million people in three years, and under Trump, about 800,000 were deported in the first three years. 

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Ultimately, five of the board’s seven members voted in favor naming the building after Lewis, including Ewing. 

Ewing noted Lewis was “one of our icons who we actually got to see grow old” and said that he “embodies what we want to teach our students, and that is how to get into good trouble.”

In addition, the board changed the name of Daniel Webster Middle School to Edith Smith Middle School. During her lifetime, Edith Smith fought to desegregate Waukegan Schools. 

The name changes are set to take effect beginning July 1.

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips contributed to this report



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