JFK school, named for slaveholder, now honors Black activist

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) — An elementary school that was once attended by John F. Kennedy is being renamed to honor a Black activist and suffragist after research revealed its previous namesake enslaved people.

The public school district in Brookline announced Friday that it will hold an online ceremony next week formally renaming the school as the Florida Ruffin Ridley School.

The town agreed on the name in 2019 after deciding to abandon its previous one, the Edward Devotion School.

Devotion, who died in 1744, left money to the town on the condition it was used for a school. Town residents later proposed a name change after finding that Devotion owned at least one slave.

Ridley was a prominent Black activist and writer who supported women’s suffrage and the anti-lynching movement. She became one of the first Black teachers in Massachusetts, according to the school district. She and her family lived in Brookline for decades starting in the 1890s. She died in Ohio in 1943.

“We are proud to celebrate the official renaming of the Florida Ruffin Ridley School and honor such an important person in our community’s history,” Interim Superintendent James Marini said in a statement.

The school had temporarily been renamed as the Coolidge Corner School, after its neighborhood, while the town sought a new name.

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