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Atlanta committee mulls five new names for Grady High School

By Vanessa McCray, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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An Atlanta school board committee tasked with reviewing the name of Henry W. Grady High School created a short list of five potential new names.

The committee on Tuesday narrowed the list of dozens of proposed names.

Two names on the short list reflect the school’s location: Midtown High School and Piedmont High School.

Two other suggestions pay tribute to people. Ida B. Wells High School would honor the journalist and civil rights activist. Thomas E. Adger High School would honor a former Grady High principal.

The fifth name on the list, Freedom High School, is concept-based, broad and inclusive, said board member Leslie Grant, who is leading the committee.

The committee will meet Tuesday to review the list one more time. Grant said she expects the committee to decide at that meeting which name it will recommend to the board.

The school board must approve a name change. It is expected to consider the committee’s recommendation at a Nov. meeting.

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Board chairman Jason Esteves formed the committee after Grady students submitted a petition to change the school’s name. Henry W. Grady, who died in 1889, was a managing editor of The Atlanta Constitution. The students’ petition contends he held “staunchly racist ideology” that “helped cement white supremacy” in the South.

Jay Hammond, a 2020 Grady High School graduate who serves on the committee, said he’s heard some support for a location-based name such as Midtown or Piedmont. But, he favors naming the school after Wells.

“I think it’s important to directly address why we are changing the name in the first place which, I believe, is that Henry W. Grady promoted racist ideas and was explicitly racist towards Black Americans. And so, for Ida B. Wells to be a Black woman, it’s a direct counterpart to who Henry W. Grady was,” he said.

In August, the naming committee announced it would recommend a new name for the school despite outcry from some alumni who wanted to preserve the name. Since then, committee members said they have sought input from students, faculty, residents and alumni on what the new name should be.