Common Concerns

  • "Changing the name is trying to erase history."
  • History can never be erased, but reinterpreting history based on new evidence happens all the time. In his article, Revisionist Historians, the historian James McPherson states that, "..revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, and new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable 'truth' about past events and their meaning."1

    Turner Ashby will always be remembered as a leader, but failing to additionally consider his role in the oppression of Black people is failing to accurately recount history. Furthermore, his name was chosen at a time when Virginia's public school system and state officials were strongly resisting integration.7 History suggests that memorializing him through a public school was a deliberate attempt at discouraging and intimidating Black students.8 Continuing to use his name today honors this history of oppression.

  • "This name is not hurting anyone."
  • "I’m here today to tell you what it’s like to be a student of color at a school named after a racist. As a person of color, discrimination is all around me. In the media, in politics, and throughout the world. But discrimination should have no place in my school. Not only is it offensive that my school is named after a white supremacist, it is also degrading and dehumanizing."6
    - Julia Clark, sophomore at (former) J.E.B. Stuart High School, Fairfax, Virginia in 2017

    Research and testimonies from Black students who attend schools named after Confederate leaders strongly suggest that these names actually do hurt people. Historical symbols associated with racism have been found to be detrimental to the academic development of Black students.3 Furthermore, when history omits Black contributions and misrepresents Black experiences, there is a negative impact on how youth understand their role in the community.4 Teachers have also anecdotally echoed these research findings. For example, a teacher at (former) J.E.B. Stuart High School said that, "It's hard enough to teach to begin with..but when students aren't feeling good about the school, it's much harder to reach them."5

    We can, and should, do better for the students of color who have attended and currently attend Turner Ashby High School. We must remove all barriers to education that are within our control, and the evidence points toward this name being one such barrier.

  • "A name change will be expensive."
  • Cost is, and always will be, a careful consideration. This change represents an investment in our community's future and a commitment to our community's values of inclusion and acceptance. Many different schools across the country have made similar changes within a tight budget.

    Locally, Staunton City Schools required around $200,000 to rename Robert E. Lee High School to Staunton High School.2 While this may seem like a large figure on the surface, it represented less than one percent of that school division's operating budget of $31.8 million. These costs were mainly incurred to rebrand athletic gear and, critically, the Staunton City School Board has stated that this was comparable to what is typically spent to replace uniforms every four years anyway.

  • "Generations of our family graduated under that name. I’m upset it will change."
  • This is a completely understandable feeling. We are all nostalgic about our time at Turner Ashby High School. After all, it's where we grew up and experienced life, both triumphs and tragedies, together as a community. However, changing the name of this institution will never erase the memories we have of TAHS. Making a conscious decision to do better for our future generations is a legacy that we can be proud of together. Changing the name will allow all students to have the opportunity to experience and remember TAHS in a positive light.

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    1. McPherson, James. “Revisionist Historians: Perspectives on History: AHA.” Revisionist Historians | Perspectives on History | AHA, 2003,

    2. School Leaders address questions over Valley high school name

    3. Woodson, Ashley N. "" What You Supposed to Know": Urban Black Students' Perspectives on History Textbooks." Journal of Urban Learning, Teaching, and Research 11 (2015): 57-65.

    4. Cokley, K. O. (2015). Practical and applied psychology.The myth of Black anti-intellectualism: A true psychology of African American students. Praeger/ABC-CLIO.

    5. Attending a School Named After a Confederate General

    6. Fairfax County Public Schools Ad Hoc Committee To Consider Renaming J.E.B. Stuart High School

    7. Rockingham County School Board Meeting Minutes. March 8, 1955

    8. What the Data Say About Civil War Monuments