Abilene ISD Buries the Confederacy
ABILENE, TX — After Abilene ISD Board of Trustees member Billy Enriquez made an impassioned plea about “systemic racism” in Abilene during his motion to wipe the names of dead Confederates off four of Abilene ISD’s elementary schools, the board voted unanimously to do so Monday night, Sept. 14, 2020.
The board spent an hour discussing the decision to drop the names of three Confederate States Army generals and the Texan politician who was the Confederacy’s postmaster general.
Jackson Elementary School named after Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson. Major General Jackson earned his name during the first Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) when he rushed his troops forward in just the nick of time to close a gap in the Confederate lines. A fellow general quipped, “Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall!” From then on he was known as General “Stonewall” Jackson. Jackson was among General Robert E. Lee’s most able commanders. He died of injuries from taking friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 at the age of 39.
Robert E. Lee Elementary will also be renamed. By the close of the Civil War, General Lee was the commander of the Confederate States Army and the Army of Northern Virginia.
Albert Sidney Johnston Elementary, to be renamed as well, was named in honor of General Johnston who was the Confederate States Army commander preceding Lee. Johnston was killed during the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862. But before Johnston served the CSA, he served as a general in the Texian Army during the Texas Independence War and the U.S. Army. After the Texas Independence, Johnston served as the Republic of Texas Secretary of War under Mirabeau Lamar, the second president of Texas.
John H. Reagan’s name will be removed from the final elementary school. Reagan, a Texan politician before the Civil War, became the Confederate States postmaster general. After the South surrendered, Reagan spent over two years in prison in solitary confinement near Boston for his leadership role in the Confederacy. While in confinement, Reagan foresaw what a calamity Reconstruction could become for Texas and wrote a heartfelt letter to his fellow Texans begging his fellow statesmen to abandon thoughts of resisting and to renounce succession and slavery. He was initially scapegoated for his letter. Later, however, as Texas leaders began to understand what they were up against, Reagan was hailed as a prophet and nicknamed “Old Roman” for his letter. After Reconstruction, Reagan served Texas in the U.S. Senate and was named the first chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. He was also one of the founders of the Texas State Historical Association.
When making the motion to rename the schools, board member Enriquez claimed the names of the schools were “systemic racism” set in place by a long ago school board with no people of color elected to it. He noted that today, in 2020, 60 percent of the pupils in Abilene ISD are “of color.”
“When are we going to get teachers who look like us?,” Enriquez asked. “Or we not have enough (teachers of color) smart enough or qualified enough to do it?”
He claimed that last sentence of his statement was sarcastic.
Here is his entire statement:
“This is 2020 and (it took) 130 years to elect one Hispanic school board member. When the naming of the schools happened, there was no people of color on the board to have any input as to what those (school) names would be. I consider it a suppression just as I do the suppression I went through in the district.
“I don’t think we should have any difficulty in turning these schools around and putting names on them that we all know. We can’t erase the history, and my God, we got rid of Lincoln, but I can Google him on my phone, and it will tell me all about Lincoln. But the school is gone so does that mean we erased Lincoln from the history books? I don’t think so. We’re not going to erase Robert E. Lee. We’re not going to erase Johnston or any of the two (other schools). They’re still going to be there in the history books.
“But I don’t think it’s right that we have to put up with the same suppression we’ve put up with for 60 years every time we drive by those schools. That’s not right. And because of that, I’m saying that we need to vote on changing — that we’re going to change the names. (We’re not voting on) what we’re going to change the names to because that’s another process. And that’s what I was thinking we were doing today.
“You know in 135 years we’ve had six people of color on this board? What does that say about the school names? (The naming of those schools) runs concurrent with that. What do we call it? Systemic racism? That’s what that is. And I for one, it’s difficult for me to tolerate it. I can talk here, tell you my experiences in Abilene ISD, and they were not good, even though I had some very good (and) fantastic teachers. Mr. Lewis Duncan was a role model for me.
“Nevertheless, there was a lot of suppression and a lot of personal attacks on me as a young man. I’m 69 years old and it’s like it happened yesterday. If I wasn’t man enough, I’d cry just to show you how I feel inside. So, it’s not right. It’s absolutely not right to leave these schools the way they are. We need to have the courage to stand up and do what’s right. Now, we can discuss this stuff about who we’re going to name (these schools after) after we decide are we going to rename them,” Enriquez said in making the motion to remove the Confederate-associated names from the four elementary schools.
Board member Angie Wylie amended the motion to establish a timeline to rename the schools.
After the unanimous vote, Superintendent Dr. David Young said his administration plans to begin the renaming process on Oct. 1.
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