I was 13-years-old and in the 7th grade, when I started a petition to change the name of the middle-school I attended.
A court ordered school desegregation ruling forced me to attend the new school. I recall the day the letter I arrived. I rushed to the the mailbox to get the letter that would tell me the name of my new school and determine my fate over the next year. In big bold letters, it said, “Roger B. Taney Jr. Middle School”.
Ever heard of Roger B. Taney Jr.? Me neither. The name wasn’t familiar at all. So, I grabbed the Encyclopedia. (You probably never heard of that either). I couldn’t believe it.
“Roger Brooke Taney – March 17, 1777 – October 12, 1864) was the fifth Chief Justice of the United States, holding that office from 1836 until his death in 1864. He is most remembered for delivering the majority opinion in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), that ruled, among other things, that African-Americans, having been considered inferior at the time the Constitution was drafted, were not part of the original community of citizens and, whether free or slave, could not be considered citizens of the United States.” (Wikipedia).
I was highly offended. Who would name a school, an educational institution after someone who didn’t believe I deserved to be a U.S. citizen because of the color of my skin. It was wrong. It didn’t feel right. And, something had to be done.
As a newly elected member of the Student Government Association, it was my civic duty to ensure that all students (especially those who were disenfranchised) felt a sense of belonging in our new community. So, I gathered up enough signatures to petition the County School Board to have the name changed.
Tensions mounted. There was a lot of resistance (claiming tradition). Protests erupted. There was division among the students and community. I refused to give up. The County School Board issued its decision and also found the name offensive. Roger B. Taney Jr. Middle School was renamed Thurgood Marshall Middle School. It was the right thing to do.
The ruling by the U.S. Trademark Office to strip the Redskins of their trademarks is cause for celebration. It’s a step in the right direction, not only for the American Indian but for all of America.
Drop a line below and let us know your thoughts on the Trademark Office decision.