DC mayor wants to rename elementary school after civil rights icon Lewis

A move to rename West Education Campus after civil rights legend John Lewis has begun in the D.C. Council.

Council Chair Phil Mendelson introduced the “John Lewis Elementary School Designation Act of 2021” on behalf of Mayor Muriel Bowser, months after the D.C. Facilities and Commemorative Expressions Working Group recommended that West and dozens of other sites be renamed.

The current namesake of the school, Joseph Rodman West, was both a senator and Union general. And in a letter to Mendelson, Bowser explained that West “gave the order to torture and murder Apache chief Mangas Coloradas, who had come to meet with him to discuss terms of peace.”

Lewis, on the other hand, was a key figure in the civil rights movement. Shortly before his death last July, the longtime Georgia congressman inspired another generation of activists protesting the murder of George Floyd.

“[D.C. Public Schools] finds that John Lewis, a lifelong champion for justice, is a far superior role model for students in the nation’s capital,” Bowser wrote.

“Despite numerous attacks, injuries and arrests, Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the civil rights movement and nonviolence. His legacy paved the way for the rich diversity of our school district.”

The school — located in D.C.’s Petworth neighborhood — has been undergoing renovations and is set to reopen this fall.

Last year, Lewis became the new namesake of what had been Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Jack Pointer

Jack Pointer 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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