‘The epitome of black excellence’ — Name unveiled at renamed Alexandria school

Two Alexandria City Public Schools have new names effective July 1, and on Tuesday, a new sign outside one of them was unveiled.

District officials – as well as students and school staffers — braved the rain outside what will be Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School to mark the removal of a sign bearing the name of the old namesake, Matthew Maury. Members of the Brooks family were also on hand.

While the school’s soon-to-be-former namesake was a member of the Confederate Navy, the new namesake was a longtime educator, civic leader and Alexandria native. She died last year.

Brooks grew up attending segregated schools and eventually returned to the city to teach during a remarkable career.

“When we talk about Black excellence, at a time right now where our country is having a racial divide … this is an example of black excellence,” said Gregory Hutchings Jr., the superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.

During remarks at the ceremony, Hutchings detailed Brooks’ early years at Parker-Gray High School, then at what is now Virginia State University, before teaching not only in Alexandria, but also all over the country.

Her story, Hutchings said, “says it is possible for Black people — in spite of what we have been through throughout our lives in spite of that — that we can still rise and rise above that.”

“And Naomi L. Brooks is the epitome of black excellence,” he said.

And with a new name comes a new school mascot and new colors. During Tuesday’s ceremony, Principal Suzanne Hess said the school colors will be blue and green, and the mascot will be the Bee.

“We selected Bees because Ms. Brooks loved plants and the garden,” she explained.

A similar ceremony is set for Wednesday morning, when the sign reading “T.C. Williams High School“ will be changed to “Alexandria City High School.” District officials say a new logo will also be revealed during the ceremony.

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer. In a previous life, he helped edit The Dallas Morning News and Chicago Tribune.

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