The Montgomery County Board of Education passed a resolution Monday to expedite the renaming process of Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School in Silver Spring. The school will be renamed later this year, possibly in honor of a renowned member of the African American community.
Col. E. Brooke Lee was a prominent state and county politician. Lee founded the county’s Planning Department and established its first land use and zoning system. However, in doing so, he “actively developed racially restrictive covenants which prohibited African Americans from buying or renting real estate in the county,” according to the resolution. County historians regard Lee as a “‘unrepentant segregationist up until the bitter end,'” reported Bethesda Beat.
“The commemoration of Colonel Lee and his legacy stands in opposition to the values of the Board of Education of Montgomery County and its work toward equity and justice,” stated the Board of Education.
The calls to rename the Silver Spring middle school, whose student population is less than 5% white, however, are new. In February 2019, County Council member Nancy Navarro wrote a letter to the school board highlighting Lee’s work as a segregationist, reported Bethesda Beat. Later that month, the Board of Education voted to accept the Lee Middle School community’s request to have the school renamed and begin the process. Originally, the school was not going to be renamed until its modernization construction project was set to be completed, in fall 2022, according to the resolution.
The Board of Education’s resolution states that “given the recent deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement in this country and the recognition of the myriad of historical injustices that have impacted the African American community, it is imperative that we identify and dismantle symbols of racism and discrimination.”
Now, the middle school must be renamed by November 10, 2020. The Board of Education proposed the names of three African American leaders and activists for “special consideration”:
- Josiah Henson, who before becoming an author and abolitionist, was enslaved in Montgomery County.
- Katherine Johnson, the renowned mathematician credited with helping to make the the 1969 moon landing possible.
- Odessa Shannon, the first African American woman to serve as an elected official in Montgomery County.
Members of the Board of Education regard these individuals as having made “exceptional contributions locally and nationally.” Board members Jeanette Dixon and Nate Tinbite took to Twitter to voice their thoughts on the resolution’s passing. “We want our schools to be named for people our students can look up to, who will inspire them and are great role models,” tweeted Dixon. Tinbite tweeted,”It is time we dismantle symbols of racism & embrace leaders who’ve fought for justice for all.”
The middle school’s new name will go into effect in 2021 on the birthdate of the person for whom it is renamed.
“The Board of Education must take swift, intentional action to eradicate racism and inequalities that exist within Montgomery County Public Schools because, in the words of the honorable Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the time is always right to do what is right”. It is time to rename Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School,” states the resolution.