Alexandria City Public Schools have acknowledged that Thomas Chambliss Williams was a racist and segregationist, and on Friday the School Board will decide on moving forward with the renaming process for T.C. Williams High School.
On the table is a proposal to begin the renaming process by directing Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. to initiate a public engagement process this fall, followed by a report with recommendations next spring.
According to the motion going before the board:
It is well documented that throughout his tenure as Superintendent, Thomas Chambliss Williams exhibited racism, fought to maintain segregation in ACPS, and promoted the school division’s massive resistance to desegregation efforts. This is inconsistent with the forward-looking vision and values expressed in the Equity for All 2025 Strategic Plan.
I THEREFORE MOVE, pursuant to Section III.B. of Regulation FF-R, that the School Board officially consider the request to rename T.C. Williams High School. Accordingly, the School Board hereby empowers the Superintendent to initiate the public engagement process, outlined in Section I. of the regulation, to solicit community feedback and possible nominations for renaming T.C. Williams High School.
There are roughly 4,000 students who attend T.C., and it is the largest high school in Virginia. Last month, in the wake of Black Lives Matter demonstrations after George Floyd’s death, the Alexandria City Public School system condemned systemic racism, and a petition to rename the school was submitted to the board. More than 170 people signed it, including Del. Charniele Herring, Del. Mark Levine, City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Mo Seifeldein.
Williams was the superintendent of the city school system from the 1930s to the 1960s and was a segregationist who advocated against integration.
Lindsey Vick and Marc Solomon are leading the new fight to get the school renamed. Two previous efforts to change the name failed, and Vick and Solomon want a faster resolution.
“While we understand the enormous challenges in reopening, we cannot accept an extended process to simply decide to change the name,” the pair told ALXnow in a statement. “We believe the school board can vote to remove the name immediately and have a new name chosen by the end of the year. Neighboring districts and districts across the nation have acted faster. Alexandria can, too. Our children are watching.”
The current placeholder name is Tubman-Chavez High School.
“Harriet Tubman was a black female freedom fighter and César Chávez was an important Latino civil rights activist,” notes an ACPS staff report. “[They were] incredible Americans whose names would honor our high school while allowing it to keep the initials ‘T.C.’ They would provide representation to students who do not see their heritage adequately in Alexandria schools’ names… This name change can preserve most branding, allow students to still be part of ‘T.C.,’ and remove this stain on our history.”
Staff photo by Vernon Miles