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Community, alumni voice their opinions in changing name of Robert E. Lee High School

It wasn’t until 1968 that Duval County Public Schools integrated its faculty and staff members.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Alumni and community members continued to express their concerns about the renaming of their once beloved high school at the Duval County Public Schools meeting Thursday night.

History of DCPS’ Robert E. Lee High School

“Now is the time to change its name," said a community member.

“I’m an alumni of this school. Most of the people in opposition of this to this aren’t," said Vincente Waugh, Lee High alumnus and EVAC Movement member.

“I am an alum of the Class of 2020. When my mentors ask me, 'What high school did you go to?' I respond, 'I attended Robert E. Lee High School.' He said, 'What an odd name.' and I said, 'Welcome to America ... no, welcome to Jacksonville, Florida,'" Waugh said.

It wasn’t until 1968 that Duval County Public Schools integrated its faculty and staff members.

In 1969, U.S. District Judge William McRae ordered integration of all public school teachers in Duval County based on a ratio of 70% white and 30% black.

By 1971, Robert E. Lee High School desegregated from an all-white school.

Many alumni are support of keeping the name, stating their history of the Confederate leader acknowledges that he did not own slaves or had any involvement with slavery.

A deep-dive into United States History tells of invasion, capture, and enslavement in 1863 by Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

During the Confederate ambush on Union, at least 50 free Black people were taken from Greensburg, Pennsylvania.

At the center of renaming schools, Duval County Public School Board members voted for nine schools including Robert E. Lee.

The board came to this unanimous 7 to 0 decision on Tuesday, June 16, 2020.

Who Was Robert E. Lee?

Robert Edward Lee was born into a family with known documentation to United States legislation. In 1786, his father, Major General Henry Lee III became a delegate to the Confederation Congress from Virginia.

By 1791, Lee III became the 9th Governor of Virginia. He would only hold this position for one-term and succeeded by Democratic-Republican Robert Brooke.

American Confederate General Robert E. Lee made his own strides outside his father’s shadow with the Revolutionary War.

Lee would become the top graduate of his military class to later become Commander of the Confederate Armies during the American Civil War.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson stated, “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states.

Robert E. Lee, Black Men and the Great American Civil War

Leadership and troops within the Confederate army refused to recognize Black men as legit soldiers.

Captured Black soldiers of the Union were abused and murdered by the Confederate rather than ‘prisoners of war’.

After the Emancipation Proclamation, Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered armies that invaded Union states to capture Black people in the North and enslave them.

Hundreds of Northern Black people were taken against their own free will and headed South in 1863.

Although many White southern didn’t like the idea of Black troops joining the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee’s ideology was to employ without delay.

Lee believed their abilities from slavery made them ready for war. He thought Black soldiers had physical qualities, obedience, and subordination for top military efficiency.

By March 1865, the Confederate Congress voted to enlist nearly 300,000 Black men between the ages of 18 and 45 into the army.

Those Black men who were considered free received equal pay, guns, and supplies while the majority of enslaved Black Confederate troops were fighting for their freedom.

If an enslaved Black man wanted to gain freedom, he would need his owner(s) consent, and the state must have emancipation laws.

According to National Archives research and data, nearly 40,000 black soldiers died over the course of the war—30,000 of infection or disease.

To view the full timeline and history of Duval County Public Schools, here