Actress Julianne Moore and classmate launch petition to rename their Virginia high school
J.E.B. Stuart High School is named for a Confederate general
Moore: School's name represents "history of racism"
The recent movement to scrub the American South of Confederate flags and names, which many view as pro-slavery symbols, has a new celebrity supporter: Julianne Moore.
The Academy Award-winning actress has teamed with movie producer Bruce Cohen in launching an online petition to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church, Virginia, arguing that the name represents a “history of racism.”
Moore and Cohen both attended the school, named for a Confederate general and Virginia native who was killed in battle during the Civil War.
“No one should have to apologize for the name of the public high school you attended and the history of racism it represents, as we and so many alumni of Stuart have felt the need to do our whole lives,” they said in the petition.
As of Monday afternoon more than 28,000 people had signed the petition, posted on Change.org.
“When we were at J.E.B. Stuart in the late ‘70’s, the school symbol was Stuart riding a horse and waving the Confederate flag. The Confederate flag was at the center of our basketball court and on our athletic letter jackets and wasn’t removed until 2001 – but the symbol of Stuart on a horse waving a flag (now solid blue) remains,” they wrote.
“The killings of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist who proudly flew and wore the Confederate battle flag was a tragic reminder of how these symbols of hate continue to fuel racism and violence,” they said. “And it’s sparked a national conversation about the appropriateness of honoring the Confederacy, especially in institutions of learning.”
Moore and Cohen suggest renaming the school to honor Thurgood Marshall, the late civil rights leader who became the first African-American justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall lived in the Falls Church area, just outside Washington during the later years of his life.
The name-change campaign comes on the heels of a similar online petition, filed last month by a group called Alumni For Change, urging the Fairfax County school board to rename J.E.B. Stuart High School and others named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee and former schools superintendent W.T. Woodson. That petition has more than 1,100 signatures.
Officials at J.E.B. Stuart High School referred CNN to a statement by Pat Hynes, chair of the Fairfax County school board:
“Recent events across the country have raised important questions about the symbols we choose to represent our communities. In Fairfax, this includes the names of some of our school buildings. We recognize that there are legitimate concerns of students, parents and communities in these schools and whether those names best reflect their community.
“We also recognize that there are historic, legacy, and financial concerns in making changes in the names of schools. Current and former students have initiated this dialogue and we will work with our communities to hear all sides of this discussion and work collaboratively to address this issue.”
Renaming the school would not be an unprecedented step. In 2014 an online campaign was successful in renaming a high school in Jacksonville, Florida, that was named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
Moore attended J.E.B. Stuart from 1975-1977. A star of such films as “Boogie Nights,” “The End of the Affair” and the “Hunger Games” series, she won a Best Actress Oscar earlier this year for her role in “Still Alice.”
Cohen is a veteran Hollywood producer whose credits include “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Milk” and “American Beauty,” for which he won an Oscar. He graduated from J.E.B. Stuart in 1979. He and Moore have been friends since the eighth grade, they said.