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Debate Looms Over Renaming School Named After Slave Owner

By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: Max Larkin/WBUR

Edward Devotion School is a K-8 institution located within the borders of the Brookline, Massachusetts public school district inside the city’s Coolidge Corner neighborhood.

Founded in 1892, Edward Devotion School is one of the oldest primary education institutions in the state of Massachusetts. It is also one of the most prestigious buildings that is recognized and preserved by the Brookline Historical Society, a non-profit organization.

Currently, about 800 students are enrolled in the Edward Devotion School. Approximately 40 percent of the student population is made up of non-white children. School administrators at Edward Devotion will tell you that the institution prides itself on the celebration and implementation of cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity.

However, there is one detail about the school’s identity that totally contradicts the values of equality that many public education institutions in America pretend to care about. According to WBUR 90.9 FM radio station based in Boston, Massachusetts, a debate is roiling in Brookline and it concerns changing Edward Devotion’s controversial name.

A town hall meeting in Brookline will be held on the evening of May 29, 2018, which will precede a vote on a warrant article being proposed by city legislators. This warrant article was designed to change the name of Edward Devotion School to Roland S. Hayes School. Here’s why.

Edward Devotion was a wealthy white man who lived in Massachusetts during the18th century. One of the things he was devoted to doing in his time was being a slave owner. Naming a public education institution after a white supremacist is a way of romanticizing slavery and honoring the savage proprietors of America’s so-called “peculiar institution.”

Naming the school after Roland S. Hayes is the right thing to do and it symbolizes the class that exists within the fabric of this posh New England town, which was a safe spot on the Underground Railroad. Mr. Hayes was a famed African-American opera singer who lived in Brookline during his storied career.

Hopefully, the people of Brookline will stand together and the city’s legislators will help this Coolidge Corner neighborhood school be renamed in a new fashion that is on the right side of history.

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