Hampton, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton NAACP, school board and city council members cheered on students as they enter the renamed Cesar Tarrant Middle School Tuesday morning.
“We felt it was important that students know that the community supports them throughout this transition,” Said Gaylene Kanoyton, President of the Hampton NAACP.
The change comes after Hampton School board voted unanimously to rename the school from Jefferson Davis Middle School to Cesar Tarrant Middle School.
Tarrant is a former slave and Revolutionary War hero from Hampton.
“It’s more of a psychological thing where you are able to go to a school that honors someone that looks like you or fought for people that look like you,” explained Jeremiah Edwards, President of the Hampton University NAACP chapter.
This change took about two years, in 2016 everyone on the board voted against changing the school’s name.
Board chairwoman Ann Cherry says the boards decision changed based on the communities opinion.
“At the time, there was an overwhelming cry not to change it,” said Cherry. “When it came around the second time there was an overwhelming cry to change it. So we looked at that and decided this would be good for our community and went for it.”
The push for change was renewed last August after a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.
“Charlottesville was that wake up call because we saw a young lady get killed for fighting for what is right. So we brought that fight here,” explained Edwards.
School policy says buildings should be named after people who made positive contributions to the community.
Citizens and civil rights groups argued Confederate leaders are not worthy of that recognition.
“We wanted to show our students here that honoring our Confederate generals who wanted to keep some of these students in chains and didn’t want them to come to school. We wanted to show them ‘Hey you are more than that’.”
The school board voted to change the school’s name after two public hearings.
School officials say the name change cost $10,000.