In a “reckoning with America’s racist past”, San Francisco school board strips names from 44 public schools, including Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt and Feinstein

January 28, 2021 • 9:15 am

First they came for Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, and now they come for George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Dianne Feinstein, and an Unknown Roosevelt. Yes, the San Francisco Board of Education, in a 6-1 vote, just decided to strip the names off 44 public schools because those names are ideologically incorrect. You can read about this decision in the two articles below from U.S. News and World Report (via the AP) as well as the San Francisco Chronicle (probably paywalled, but you can inquire judiciously). Click on the screenshots to see the carnage:

I wrote about this proposal on October 25 of last year, noting that a committee of 12 “community members” was appointed to vet all the school names, and that their “research” consisted of using their own methods, including looking at newspaper articles and Wikipedia. Professional historians or “diverse ethnic communities” were not consulted. But research appears to have been a bit lax. For instance, as you’ll see in the list below, the committee didn’t even know if the “Roosevelt” who gave his name to Roosevelt Middle School was F.D.R. or Teddy. You could just barely confect a reason to discard Teddy, but what if it was Franklin? Doesn’t matter—they shared some genes, so best to strip the name off!

And who is the Noriega who’s also being erased?  Not Manuel for sure, but the committee didn’t even know. About 1/3 of all the public schools in the city are being renamed.

According to the AP, the criteria for deep-sixing a name were these:

The committee was asked to identify schools named for people who were slave owners or had connections to slavery, colonization, exploitation of workers or others, and anyone who oppressed women, children, queer or transgender people. They also sought to change names of schools that honored anyone connected to human rights or environmental abuses or espoused racist or white supremacist beliefs.

. . . . “I want to ensure people this in no way cancels or erases history,”** San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez said, commenting specifically about Feinstein and the wider group as well. “But it does shift from upholding them and honoring them, and these opportunities are a great way to have that conversation about our past and have an opportunity to uplift new voices.”

**Coyne Twitter-like correction: This is a lie.

There’s a list of names below that will be changed. Presumably Washington and Jefferson will go because they had slaves, while others were bigots (many just reflecting the views of their era). “El Dorado” goes because it presumably conjures up the conquistadores, but I’m not sure about many of the rest—people like Paul Revere and Daniel Webster. Presumably they did at least one bad thing, something that outweighs the rest of their contributions.

Abe Lincoln, who freed the slaves, should surely stay, right?  But no, Abe’s down the drain because of his “treatment of Native Americans during his administration.” If you want to read about that, go here.

And what about poor Dianne Feinstein, now 87, who’s so much for California? She was mayor of San Francisco for ten years and has served the state in the Senate for 28. As far as I know, she didn’t have slaves, but she did something almost as bad:

The committee that selected the names included Feinstein on the list because as mayor in 1984 she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag that was part of a long-standing flag display in front of City Hall. When the flag was pulled down a second time, she did not replace it.

She did not replace it! Doesn’t matter: erase her.

Now I suppose some of these names deserve replacement, but surely not all of them. You be the judge:

School Names to be Changed (the miscreants getting erased were put in bold by the Chronicle)

Balboa High School, Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa
Abraham Lincoln High School, U.S. president
Mission High School, Mission Dolores
George Washington High School, first U.S. president
Lowell High School, poet/critic James R. Lowell
James Denman Middle School, founder of first S.F. school
Everett Middle School, Edward Everett, American statesman
Herbert Hoover Middle School, U.S. president
James Lick Middle School, land baron
Presidio Middle School, S.F. military post
Roosevelt Middle School, Theodore or F.D., both U.S. presidents
Lawton K-8, U.S. Army officer Henry Ware Lawton
Claire Lilienthal (two sites), S.F. school board member
Paul Revere K-8, American Revolution patriot
Alamo Elementary, a poplar tree or the site of Texas Revolution battle
Alvarado Elementary, Pedro de Alvarado, conquistador
Bryant Elementary, author Edwin Bryant
Clarendon Elementary Second Community and Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program, Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, English politician
El Dorado Elementary, mythical City of Gold
Dianne Feinstein Elementary, U.S. senator and former S.F. mayor
Garfield Elementary, James Garfield, U.S. president
Grattan Elementary, William Henry Grattan, Irish author
Jefferson Elementary, Thomas Jefferson, U.S. president
Francis Scott Key Elementary, composer of “Star Spangled Banner”
Frank McCoppin Elementary, S.F. mayor
McKinley Elementary, William McKinley, U.S. president
Marshall Elementary, James Wilson Marshall, sawmill worker at Sutter’s Mill
Monroe Elementary, James Monroe, U.S. president
John Muir Elementary, naturalist
Jose Ortega Elementary, Spanish colonizer
Sanchez Elementary, Jose Bernardo Sanchez, Spanish missionary
Junipero Serra Elementary, Spanish priest
Sheridan Elementary, Gen. Philip Sheridan
Sherman Elementary, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
Commodore Sloat Elementary, John Sloat, Navy officer
Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary, author
Sutro Elementary, Adolph Sutro, S.F. mayor
Ulloa Elementary, Don Antonio de Ulloa, Spanish general
Daniel Webster Elementary, U.S. statesman
Noriega Early Education School, unclear
Presidio EES, S.F. military post
Stockton EES, Robert F. Stockton, Navy commodore

The schools have until April to come up with new names, and you can guess what kind of names they will be. The cost of this whole process, which of course involves changes in signage, stationery, websites, and so on, is  estimated at around $1 million—in a district where there’s already a deficit of $75 million.

According to Coyne’s criteria for renaming, to retain a name, a statue, or an honor, the person originally depicted or honored has to meet two criteria:

a.) The name or honor was bestowed for something good that the person did

b.) On balance, the person’s life made a positive difference to the planet.

I would guess that many of these people, like John Muir or The Unknown Roosevelt, would meet those criteria, and I’m sure that Dianne Feinstein and Thomas Jefferson would as well.

This frenzy of renaming in San Francisco, with citizens having no strict criteria except some vague guidelines, and left to do their research on Wikipedia or in newspapers, is simply insane. But it’s going to continue, and, mark my words, will get worse under Biden, who’s clearly following the advice of some woke aides. (Remember, though that this process started in 2018, under Trump.)

Take a last look at George Washington High:

Soon to be gone: George Washington High School in San Francisco AP Photo by Jeff Chiu

h/t: Ben

88 thoughts on “In a “reckoning with America’s racist past”, San Francisco school board strips names from 44 public schools, including Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt and Feinstein

      1. They could follow the lead of the Auburn mathematics department when they split into Math Dept One and Math Dept A. So School #1, School A, School Primus, School First, etc. Probably too many schools to make this easy.

            1. Those of us who use non-ASCII characters on a regular basis have been playing that song on Slashdot for over 20 years, to no avail. It’s an old, old song – and not as good as anything from TwoTone Records, as I’ve just been reminded.

          1. Computation demands the use of formal logic and implies the existence of discrete, correct answers. It’s systemic oppression—and the violent denial of other ways of knowing—all the way down.

  1. Insane! I lived for a short while in the Sunset District, on 10th Ave. between Noriega and Ortega. Will the street names be changed, too?? Poor Diane F.

    1. The Mormons had this right. Crazy as they are, they brilliantly named the streets and avenues in Salt Lake City with numbers by thousands. They’ll never need renaming unless they exceed the counting set. At the rate they replicate, that won’t be hard to do.

    2. Another former Sunset resident – our kids were at Robert Louis Stevenson elementary. I’m not really sure what Stevenson’s specific crime is here. Feels like a little bit of a lot of peoples lives are being excised.

    3. Will the street names be changed, too?

      Re-numbered in hex? Or duodec? Or octal – no that’d give ex-Compuserve people an unacceptable advantage.

  2. Surely they should rename the city. Saint Francis was certainly a privileged youth, and it’s quite likely he discriminated against various types of people. Certainly the Catholic church (and Christianity in general) is quite homophobic. I’m sure the historically astute can come up with other instances. Perhaps it should be renamed, a la Stalingrad and Leningrad, after some glorious revolutionary leader of Wokism.

  3. I’m worried that when the archives open in 2027 and we learn some things we’d rather not know about the private life of one of the greatest Americans (and one of my heroes), Martin Luther King, we may need to remove his name from schools. That would be a tragedy, and I am NOT being facetious here. But this is just speculation.

    1. … and Sherman, who dealt the Confederate would-be slave republic a death blow? What the hell was the ‘thinking’ *there*??

    2. Almost any ‘worthy’ selected now for a school name will either turn out to have previously unknown failings, or turn out to be less worthy when judged by tomorrows standards.

      I suggest using chalkboards for the name signs as there will be so many revisions in the future….

      1. … which is partly why I suggested using names from history more than a half-millennium old. Fewer surprises to come out of the archives. Doesn’t do anything for the “o tempora, o mores” problem (Umm, Diana, I’ve forgotten the name to go with that one. A smidgin before the Julian calendar change, I think. Probably complaining about the trade deficit, in modern terms.)

  4. Good thing Mahatma Gandhi was not an American. His remarks about the indigenous people of South Africa would be hard to swallow today. Counterweight it!

  5. Well I suppose it is encouraging they didn’t choose the names to be :

    “Not [fill in name here] school”


    “[fill in name] was a terrible person school”


    “It was a category mistake to name this school after the racist [fill in name here] who is the reason why people are treated unfairly”

  6. The ignorance of this action cannot be overstated. All of the judges should be cancelled for stupidity alone. It’s right out of censorship – 1984

  7. I have a hard time getting really upset about changing names of buildings. I understand the issues and rather like Dr PCC(e)’s criteria for renaming things, but in the end I really don’t give a damn what the name of the building is, so long as I can find it if I need to.

    But what really bugs me about this Wokist shit is that they weren’t interested in what the communities whose kids go to these schools think. If they ASKED the community if they should rename their schools, then that would be ok by me.

    This is exactly the kind of top-down authoritarian elitist shite the Woke are so determined to impose on all of us. They don’t give a damn what the communities think – they KNOW what’s right and no one else is allowed a voice.

    Depressing start to the day. I’m going to go hide in my lab.

      1. asking the community whose school district it is.

        Communist! I’m telling Uncle Joe McCarthy about you!

  8. They should just rename all the schools after Ibram X. Kendi, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Angela Davis and be done with it. (Robin DiAngelo doesn’t qualify, because she is white and hence implicitly racist.) /s

  9. Absurd.

    However could I point out that Washington, Paul Revere etc were traitors who rebelled against the state to create a new one! 😛I would have thought they should have a list of acceptable Alternatives ready – otherwise they may find any new name is unacceptable.

    Truly, a world so obsessed with appearance over substance, deserves to go down in ruin.

        1. No brontosaurus or apatosaurus fossils have been found in California, I think.
          Hadrosaur High, though, would be ducky

  10. “Presumably they did at least one bad thing” … They were white? Erasing history to build their brave new world – but those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.

  11. *Sigh* And so it goes. Removal for poorly argued reasons will continue, and soon more trivial reasons will be sufficient since this is really about virtue signalling. Virtue creds are awarded when one demonstrates greater-than-thou virtues. So soon we will see FDRs removal because… well they will find a reason.

    On these various fronts, I am turned in favor of doing some of these things for the sake of honoring those who simply need their turn to be honored. So not for negative reasons (so-and-so was slightly bad), but for good reasons (so-and-so was good, and we haven’t recognized that enough). For example, I’m ok with removing Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill, and replacing him with Harriet Tubman. Not so much because Jackson was of ill repute (he was, btw), but because Tubman deserves greater prominence, and its just time to see a new face on the ‘ol double sawbuck.

    1. Jackson’s face does not really belong on any money and the same could be said for Jefferson. But the reasons are historical and have nothing to do with slaves or how poorly Jackson treated the Indians. Jackson was stupid when it came to finance or banks as was Jefferson. They were both anti-money and anti-bank. So why are they featured on our money, beats me?

  12. I’m guessing that many of these schools are underperforming.

    It’s much easier to slap a new name on a school than to actually do the hard work of improving it.

    This is therefore nothing more than a distraction from the real set of problems. A completely hollow gesture and a waste of resources that will do nothing to improve the effectiveness these schools.

    But it will give politicians something to brag about.

  13. Feinstein is well-known in SF for being homophobic. That doesn’t really sit well with a lot of people here, especially those that were around at the time. We wouldn’t have the Mojave NP without her, but it isn’t called Feinstein NP.

    1. A degree of homophobia would be considered pretty normal just a few decades ago. It is more a matter of a person fitting in with their time, after all. So we could level a similar charge to a wide # of liberal politicians when she was holding office.
      It seems more accurate to me to decry the time, rather than a person who mainly lived in it and held typical views for that time. The exception would be if someone was especially active in doing harm. That may change the equation, for sure.

  14. As bad as the rules were, it appears the council didn’t even follow their own rules. The rules all talk about people, not geographical or place names. Mission, Presidio, El Dorado, and Alamo don’t meet the exclusion criteria. Moreover Presidio and Misson are dual-meaning words referring to both the names of the districts and having the religious/military connotation. In that respect, removing the names is sort of like objecting to the Groucho Marx school because he has the same last name as Karl.

    I would also be very surprised if the Clarendon school was actually named after the Earl. Clarendon is a pretty common U.S. location name – heck, there’s a Clarendon district just across the bay from S.F. too. I’d bet money that 90% of the time it’s adopted, it’s because the folks choosing the name have heard it used as a place name before and think it’s pretty, not because they are referencing some 1600s British nobleman.

    But all that said, except for the unnecessary cost and waste of time, I have little issue with such renamings. Call them after the districts in which they reside (cough Presidio cough) or the street they’re on and be done with it.

    1. Yes, I thought that about Clarendon too. The connection to Charles II’s Lord Chancellor is too remote to be credible.

    2. Oh and a second thought about the school name Alamo – wokies should actually love this one, with a little change of perspective. The Alamo story is one where a minority general, leading a minority army, fights against a small group of privileged whites. The POC win the battle, enter the compound, and free the white people’s slaves. If you’re woke, what’s not to like about that?

  15. The real fun will begin when they start coming up with the new names they want to use instead: cue intensive online research into every microscopic detail of the relevant person’s past, public pronouncements and implicit opinions, to see if they manage to meet the exalted standards the current names apparently fail to live up to.

  16. Washington I understand. He was, after all, a traitor to the state 🙂 . However, Lincoln freed the slaves. How stupid do you have to be to cancel the person who made it illegal to own black people in the USA?

  17. The name-changing comedy is purely symbolic, but reflects something definitely more sinister: a cast of mind among educrats that is seeping into curriculum. Seattle, for example, is considering a proposed framework for implementing ethnic studies throughout the K-12 curriculum.

    Math teachers will ask the following questions: “identify how math has been and continues to be used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color,” “analyze the ways in which ancient mathematical knowledge has been appropriated by Western culture,” “how important is it to be right?” and “Who gets to say if an answer is right?” Once this slant is
    baked into the curriculum, the rising generation will learn that the concept of
    correctness and incorrectness in computation is a colonial, racist artifact of Western culture. Perhaps we will then get a new, decolonized approach to engineering mathematics in the design of load-bearing structures such as bridges and buildings.

  18. Speaking as a San Franciscan, I’m ashamed of my home town and angry at the preening dolts who run the school board.

    The issue is not simply about renaming schools—it’s about a committee and school board deciding that some of the most important and greatest figures in American history do not deserve not be publicly honored. And the committee did so through the crudest means possible (“Owned slaves? You’re out! Doesn’t matter what else you did!”).

    It’s one thing to encourage people to have a more nuanced and critical view of our past presidents and leaders. It’s another to cast practically all of them (from before the 20th century at least) into the dustbin of figures to be ashamed of. I hope this rot stops in San Francisco, because if it spreads to the rest of the country then America will resemble someone cutting off the branch she sits on.

    Who will those schools be named after who passes the purity test? Some worthies no doubt, but probably many people who never wielded much power (which always brings hard decisions with it), or who were primarily distinguished as victims of some sort or another, or whose importance lies more in tokenhood than in great accomplishments.

    I hope there is still time to restore sanity, but in the meantime I applaud the comments of our Mayor:

    “This is an important conversation to have, and one that we should involve our communities, our families, and our students. What I cannot understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then. We should be talking about getting them in classrooms, getting them mental health support, and getting them the resources they need in this challenging time. Our families are frustrated about a lack of a plan, and they are especially frustrated with the fact that the discussion of these plans weren’t even on the agenda for last night’s School Board meeting.” Mayor Breed asked that the board have “the same urgency and focus on getting our kids back in the classroom, and then we can have that longer conversation about the future of school names.”

  19. It is worth noting (apologies if I missed it above) :

    Graduates of these schools may be faced with listing the previous name on a resumé or somesuch, or at minimum be permanently imbued with a self-image reflective of the judgements of the name-changers.

  20. There’s something I like about about removing names of prominent people regardless of political purity (I realize it’s not the case here).

    Growing up in the UK the majority of schools I was familiar with are named after the road they are on or the area they are in. The one notable exception was the closest school to me, Bishop Challoner. It is one of those faith schools.

  21. This San Francisco renaming binge is plain silly, and probably counterproductive. Still, this nation has yet to come to grips with its racist past and with the persistent impact that racist past has in the present.

    For a century after this nation fought a civil war to end the institution of chattel slavery, it continued to labor under the Jim Crow system in the former confederacy — a system under which it was impossible to pass laws, including even anti-lynching laws, granting black people the full rights of American citizenship, because boll weevil southern politicians controlled the critical congressional committee chairmanships and voted as a block — and in which blacks in the north, especially those who had migrated there in the hope of securing a better future, were shunted into ghettoes with poor housing and even poorer schools, and closed off from adequate employment opportunities.

    Then, after passage the landmark federal civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s banished most forms of de jure racial discrimination, there began almost immediately a white backlash against this newfound racial equality. Indeed, the ink was barely dry on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, when five deep south states abandoned president Lyndon Johnson — himself a son of the South, who was put on the 1960 national ticket to help Massachusetts senator John F. Kennedy secure the vote of the traditionally democratic southern states — in favor of arch-conservative Arizona senator Barry Goldwater in the 1964 US presidential election, primarily because Johnson had pushed through the Civil Rights Act, while Goldwater had opposed it.

    Then, in the 1968, after the additional passage of the Voting Rights and the Fair Housing Acts, arch-segregationist George Wallace also carried five states of the deep south and a surprisingly high percentage of the white vote in northern states (what we might refer to as the “proto-deplorable” vote). Then along came the winner of that election, Richard Nixon, with his “southern strategy” for consolidating the disaffected segregationists into the GOP base and his dog-whistle appeals to middle America’s “silent majority.”

    The Woke have embarked on a misbegotten path that seems doomed to deepen racial resentments. But until this nation fully comes to grips with its racist past, and with the lingering inequalities that are that past’s legacy, it will not have lived up to its founding ideals or to its motto e pluribus unum.

    1. You are certainly correct, racism has been front and center in this country since the beginning. Because of how our government was constructed with the premier states rights this was the death of any equality. But these clowns with their name change actions does nothing to improve racism in the country. It just pisses people off and leaves them wondering what is wrong with them. Erasing two of the greatest people in our past who are responsible for us being here is first class stupidity.

  22. A few decades ago, in an environmental biology class where students liked to discuss odd things, one of the students complained about Presidents’ Day, explaining that both Washington and Lincoln had been slave owners. Fortunately, I knew something about this. Students got an unexpected history lesson.

    Washington was a slave owner. Definitely. He did arrange for the freeing of his slaves after his death. Lincoln could not have been a slave owner even if he’d wanted to be one because he was a resident of free states his entire adult life. He felt slavery was wrong, worked to end it, and eventually did so.

    Sometimes I am amazed at the ignorance of people.

      1. Yes, and given the composition of the Court that decided Dred Scott v. Sandford, it’s likely SCOTUS would’ve struck down as unconstitutional any statute enacted by a free state that forbade its residents from owning slaves in a slave state.

  23. It seems that alumni feeling connected to their high schools is going to be a thing of the past, as schools now get reorganized away and/or renamed at the drop of a hat. In SF anyway, everyone will end up having gone to a high school that ceased to exist a few years after they graduated.

    This school district has been floundering about re-opening the schools to the fury and frustration of the parents, and yet this what they deemed more important to spend their time on. I wish there were a way to vote these people out, but every election I search for non-woke candidates and there just aren’t any.

  24. From Yascha Mounk on twitter:

    “It’s official, folks: Abraham Lincoln has a ‘dishonorable legacy. The presumption it takes for the members of some local school board to sit in smug judgment of Abraham Lincoln’s life is, well, the only words that come to mind are: galaxy brain levels of chutzpah.”

    He adds: “Look, there are enough schools in the country named for Lincoln. One more or one less hardly makes a difference. But the ideology this reveals is toxic and dangerous. Think of this little story as a symptom that averts us to a much deeper disease.”


  25. A couple years ago Terman Middle School was renamed Ellen Fletcher Middle School due to Lewis Terman’s advocacy of eugenics. (The school was named after both Lewis Terman and his son Frederick Terman, the latter often credited as being the father of Silicon Valley).

    However, the presence of the Terman name could not be entirely eliminated. The road leading to the school is still Terman. The road circumscribing the school is still Terman Circle. The apartment complex just on the other side of Terman Circle facing the school is still Terman Apartments. Finally, the park to which the school has exclusive access from the hours of 7am to 3pm on weekdays is still Terman Park, and the city-maintained sign in the park still says that between 7 and 3, the park is exclusively for the use of Terman Middle School students, although the name change was made in late 2018

  26. I happen to know that if we offer the mob a few more gestures of appeasement, they will stop trying to destroy everything, and we can all get along peacefully again.
    Certainly that tactic has worked well with such people in the past, although I cannot think of any examples.

  27. This is all so binary. Who, after all, was perfect. I remember when I was little, in the early 50s I guess, laughing at racist jokes my elders told. I’ve got over it. Sure, nobody’s going to name a school after me, but if complete purity of thought and action is required, few will make the grade.

    1. Correct. The ‘debate’ leaves little to no room for nuance. However, as we age we either evolve or we regress: can we absorb new knowledge and views in order to challenge the racist views we were raised with? In the US, an intensely individualistic society it goes something like this: if you are black and poor it must be all your won fault. In this telling no consideration is given to the structural policies and decisions taken that condemn generations to continued poverty and violence. The blatant segregation that exists in American towns and cities to this day is no accident; it is, instead, the result of conscious decisions and policies carried out by elected officials and others to ensure that things will stay the same.

  28. Many people do not understand English, others cannot read, and (OMG) some can’t even read English. Good reason to ban speaking it (there are some horrible things that were said in English), and to burn all the books printed in this monster language.

  29. I think they are combatting a perception that since the person’s name on the school might have owned slaves, then students who are effectively descendants of those slaves feel literally their lives are threatened or unsafe as they must enter under the name every weekday.

    This topic – even though we can discuss its lack of merit – ultimately makes me depressed.

  30. Both Cape Canaveral and Hoover Dam re-acquired their original names (the latter by unanimous Act of Congress in 1947 – not sure how the former pulled it off), so there are examples of reversals.

  31. San Francisco is named for one of the most “revered” figures in Christianity :

    See Also :

    Christianity has a pretty good track record of civil destruction and submission by force in the service of power, domination, and nonexistent supernatural fantasies over all life.

    So remind us, o proud judges, what are we obliged to rename or cancel things for?

  32. FDR did what a lot of people feared Trump would do—he rounded up minorities into camps and nominated a KKK member to the Supreme Court. There are lots of various history sources indicating he was a major racist.

    1. FDR enjoyed the privileges of his class and upbringing. Like Lincoln, he probably imbibed standard views on the station of black people in American society. However, FDR’s actions in the New Deal and during WW2 underscore his concern for the working classes, and for this he earned the hatred of the capitalist classes.

  33. Jefferson Davis? Secessionist, Traitor. Robert E. Lee? Confederate General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Traitor and secessionist. Braxton Bragg? Alright, you get the idea. The examples mentioned here and a few others have no business being displayed on public buildings. Stick them in a museum, the correct environment for future generations to learn how those individuals and their followers sought to perpetuate slavery in this country.

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