Students at a Montgomery County, Maryland high school have started circulating a petition to change their school’s name due to its ties to slavery and racism.
In a petition filed on Change.org, the Super Political Activism Club at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville said while the person does have a place in history, his name should not be in front of the school.
As of June 21, over 1,600 people have signed the petition.
Calls for a name change come after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests on police brutality.
Richard Montgomery was a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, who led troops in the Invasion of Canada.
The Current Newspaper, a student publication from Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, reported in 2018 that Montgomery acquired slaves after he was married and never set foot in the county, which bears his name.
Montgomery kept slaves in his custody and gave them back to his wife before his death, according to his will.
“Montgomery owned a number of slaves over his lifetime, and we strongly believe that celebrating a slave owner is contradictory to the community of diversity and inclusion we’ve fostered,” the students said in the petition.
The student club offered three different people with county ties that would take over as the school’s name:
- Emily Catherine Edmonson: After she and her siblings were freed from slavery in 1848, Edmonson became an abolitionist who worked alongside Frederick Douglass.
- Lillian Beatrice Brown: Born in Rockville in 1912, Brown was the granddaughter of slaves who became the principal and sole teacher at Germantown Colored Elementary School. She taught at several other schools, including Beall Elementary after it was integrated.
- Gladys Young: Known as the “Harriet Tubman of Montgomery County,” Young was an equal rights advocate who secured homeownership and lease agreements for people of color. She also organized voter registration drives and issue criticism of the county’s board of education and police department.
The high school was initially known as Rockville High School when first founded in 1892.
It was renamed Richard Montgomery High School in 1935 to distinguish itself from Rockville Colored High School, according to the school’s website.
It is not the first time that a name change for a Montgomery County school was requested due to the subject’s questionable past.
Last year, Councilmember Nancy Navarro asked the county’s school board to consider renaming Col. E Brooke Lee Middle School.
As a housing developer, Lee’s zoning policies barred African Americans from living in Silver Spring unless they were domestic servants.
The Montgomery County Board of Education has the final call if any schools are to be renamed.
WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.