Should San Francisco schools with names tied to slavery be changed?



But where does this cultural purge end? If a George Washington School sends a poor message to San Francisco youth, how much “worse” must it be that the nation’s capital has the same name? And Jefferson owned slaves, too. So I guess we need to destroy those monuments, re-name the capital, and while we’re at it, change all the other school, city, and street names that don’t meet the current cultural tests. Then there’s the State of Washington!

And while we’re at it, surely having cities named after Catholic saints must ruffle some feathers at the ACLU or the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, or whomever. So I guess San Francisco needs to be re-named, with Los Angeles not far behind - San Juan Capistrano too, the whole bunch. Historic religious symbols have, after all, already been purged from various city and state seals.

Heaven help us. And George Orwell, call your office.


I think it depends. If it’s someone who was historically defined by things like their personal racism, fighting against the United States or their owning slaves, sure by all means change the name. No one should be attending Nathan Bedford Forrest Elementary for example. If it’s someone who was defined or historically noteworthy for the worthier aspects of their self, such as fighting for the formation of our nation (and being our first and arguably best president (who we often forget manumitted his slaves in his will)), or for fighting for our country and penning one of our greatest national songs… then probably not. Simply having owned slaves is not necessarily critera enough to eliminate them from our cultural heritage for many reasons including but not limited to; Slavery wasn’t seen as wrong by our country at the time they engaged in the practice. Erasing them from history diminishes not only their good works we tend to remember them for. It also diminishes the memory of those ties to slavery they did have which stand as a stark reminder to us about not only the institution of slavery itself but also the reminder that even the greatest of people can sometimes do bad things. And lastly for this list, it sends a message IMO that no one is redeemable.

By all means don’t overlook or forget that they owned slaves, that is something that shouldn’t ever be forgotten. But also stop to recognize that didn’t define who they were even when they were alive, and it’s certainly not why we remember them today. Men like Washington, Key, Jefferson admittedly did a terrible thing by owning slaves, but they also did a tremendous amount of good in their time within the context of the society they were living in as well (and in many cases overturned in the process of living in it).


You make reasonable points – but who knew Francis Scott Key even owned slaves, until the “activists” brought it up? It’s obviously not what “defined” him. It just seems as if there’s a “scorched earth” campaign of political purity by contemporary standards.


Enough with trying to pretty up the past!

Negative history is like human death. It’s always there no matter how we try to deny it.

And getting offended is part of life.

The Holy Church should be teaching, instead of getting offended by history that doesn’t affect anybody’s current life, to use that energy to do penance!



DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit