A Mississippi public school named after Confederate President Jefferson Davis will rename itself after former President Barack Obama. The school district board made the decision to better reflect the student body, which is predominantly black.
On Oct. 17, Davis Magnet IB PTA President Janelle Jefferson announced during a stakeholders meeting that there would be a name change for Jefferson Davis Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi. The elementary school will be renamed Barack Obama Magnet IB, The Clarion-Ledger reports.
The elementary school has a student population that is 98 percent black. The PTA president suggested during her announcement that the school's Confederate namesake would have preferred not to have his name attached to a school predominantly attended by African-Americans.
"Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him," Jefferson said.
The PTA president added that she and fellow members chose Obama as the elementary school's new namesake because they wanted the campus to "reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves."
On Aug. 16, a study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that more than 100 public schools bore the names of Confederate figures in 2016. Of those, 13 were named after Davis while 52 were named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to AJC.com.
As of Jan. 17, 19 public schools were named after Obama or former first lady Michelle Obama. More than 90 percent of the students who attend these schools are black and Latino, Education Week reports.
There has been a national debate over how appropriate Confederate symbols are in public spaces. Professor Janelle Scott of the University of California noted that an increasing number of Confederate-named schools were changing their names in favor of prominent African-American figures, like Obama.
"For far too many years, children went to school and continue to go to schools named after figures who would've been hostile to them," Scott said. "We're at a very interesting historical moment where people are attempting to face history."
Obama has largely remained out of the public eye since leaving office. The former president is slated to return to the political stage by campaigning on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam in Virginia on Oct. 19, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.