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San Francisco may remove Abraham Lincoln’s name from a high school, because a district committee says the 16th president — who abolished slavery — did not demonstrate that “black lives mattered to him.”
Lincoln is one of dozens of historical figures who the city school district’s renaming committee argued led lives so rife with racism, oppression or abuse that their names should not grace its buildings, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“The discussion for Lincoln centered around his treatment of First Nation peoples, because that was offered first,” Jeremiah Jeffries, chairman of the renaming committee and a first-grade teacher, told the paper. “Once he met criteria in that way, we did not belabor the point.”
He continued: “The history of Lincoln and Native Americans is complicated, not nearly as well known as that of the Civil War and slavery,” according to the paper.
“Lincoln, like the presidents before him and most after, did not show through policy or rhetoric that black lives ever mattered to them outside of human capital and as casualties of wealth building,” Jeffries said.
“Uprooting the problematic names and symbols that currently clutter buildings, streets, throughout the city is a worthy endeavor,” he added. “Only good can come from the public being reflective and intentional about the power of our words, names and rhetoric within our public institutions.”
Critics have slammed the district’s effort to rename the 44 sites as amateurish, arguing the committee’s rationales derived from Wikipedia or selective news sources — rather than relying on historical records and exhaustive research.
When the committee released the list of buildings to be renamed, many made sense because Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe were slave owners, and Vasco Núñez Balboa was a vicious conquistador.
But others raised eyebrows, including George Washington, Herbert Hoover and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose name was recommended to be removed from an elementary school because she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag in front of City Hall as mayor in 1984.
President Trump slammed the effort to remove Honest Abe’s name on Wednesday.
“So ridiculous and unfair. Will people never make a stand!” he said in a tweet.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also weighed in, writing: “Abraham Lincoln…George Washington…even Diane friggin’ Feinstein: NONE are woke enough for the America-hating radical Left.”
He added: “This will never stop, until Americans say ‘ENOUGH!!’ and call it out for the ignorant nonsense that it is.”
To many, Lincoln is known as the Great Emancipator, and an inspiration to his successors, including President Barack Obama, who used the Lincoln Bible for his inauguration in 2009.
Harold Holzer, a Lincoln scholar and director of Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, told the Chronicle that Lincoln “saved the country from dividing and ruin. He should be honored for it.”
Lincoln’s involvement with Native Americans is trickier to navigate, the paper noted.
His administration supported the Homestead Act of 1862 and the transcontinental railroad, which led to the loss of their land, according to the outlet, and historians say he largely delegated the sometimes bloody response to Native American conflicts while focusing on the Civil War.
Lincoln also oversaw the hanging of 38 warriors after a Sioux uprising in Minnesota, after he reviewed the legal cases against the 303 men sentenced to death. He saved the lives of 265 of them.
Sherry Black, who worked for more than 40 years in Native American economic and community development, told the paper: “Considering the time period, it’s so difficult to understand how things were at the time. How do you make these decisions?”
Holzer said Lincoln “was more progressive than most people.”
“There was pretty rampant hostility (toward Native Americans) and I think Lincoln rose above it,” he said. “Nobody is going to pass 21st century mores if you’re looking at the 18th and 19th centuries.”
The school board plans to vote on the recommendations early next year.
Meanwhile, Jeffries urged the public to perform its own research, “particularly on Lincoln.”
“There is a lot of scholarship out there,” he said. “I encourage everyone to seek it out. Read.”
The renaming committee is expected to officially recommend scrapping current names of the the 44 schools in January, according to the paper.
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