by Mallory Carlson ‘19
A Silver Spring middle school is the latest institution that is being considered for a name change, according to the Montgomery County Council. The school in question is Col. E Brooke Lee Middle School, named for a man who lived in Montgomery County in the first half of the 20th century and was a World War I veteran, prominent developer, and influential politician in the Democratic party.
Despite his accomplishments, Lee’s work as a large-scale developer, which included having a hand in the creation of the county’s zoning and land use policies, was characterized by discrimination and racism. The policies that he enacted barred African Americans from living in Silver Spring unless they were domestic servants. These rules were not overturned until 1968, two years after the construction of Col. E Brooke Lee Middle School.
The controversy of the school’s namesake was brought to light by a Montgomery County student’s parent, who contacted Montgomery County Council President Nancy Navarro. “If you’re concerned about racial equity in our community, you should really address this,” the parent suggested, according to Navarro. Since receiving the information, Navarro has encouraged school system superintendent Jack Smith and president of the board Shebra L. Evans to take naming the school after a woman or person of color into consideration.
“It’s a good time to rename the school after somebody that would best reflect the student population, as well as the values that we hold dear in the county,” explained Navarro, as the student population of the middle school is over 90 percent African American and Latino.
As of right now, the middle school is going through the process of being renovated. It will reopen in September of 2021.
Col. E Brooke Lee Middle School joins a host of others that have come under fire for their namesakes. In January, an Arlington high school had its name officially changed from Washington-Lee High School to Washington Liberty High School in response to growing criticism of a school name that honors Robert E. Lee, most known for being a commander of the Confederate States Army.
In even more recent news, community members will gather this evening at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington D.C. to host a “forum and community conversation” that will center around the possibility of the name of the school being changed. Wilson was a strong proponent of segregation, and students at various institutions, like Princeton University, have advocated that his name be removed from the titles of educational buildings.