Following a month of deliberation, a “renaming committee” is considering renaming 44 San Francisco Unified School District schools bearing the names of “controversial” historical figures, including former President Abraham Lincoln and longtime Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, over concerns the figures are no longer “appropriate.”
Last October, the school district commissioned the committee, who subsequently raised the possibility of declaring Dianne Feinstein Elementary’s name “inappropriate,” according to the Washington Free Beacon, over allegations that Feinstein embraced the Confederate flag while serving as mayor of San Francisco in the 1980s.
“According to a 1984 copy of Workers Vanguard, ‘Dixie’ Feinstein raised a Confederate flag at San Francisco’s Civic Center while she was mayor of the city, and later replaced the flag after it was pulled down by protesters,” the Free Beacon notes. “This allegation led the school board to include the elementary school bearing Feinstein’s name.”
The San Francisco Chronicle echoed the allegations, but according to SF Bay View, a progressive alternative Bay Area paper that fact-checked the allegations, although the Confederate flag did appear in front of San Francisco’s Civic Center as part of a display of “historical flags” (and was, indeed, pulled down by protesters and later replaced), it’s not clear Feinstein had anything to do with the incident. The blame more likely rests with an aide in the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.
Regardless — and perhaps emboldened by Democratic criticism of Feinstein over how she handled now-Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings — the San Francisco United School District has included on its renaming list Feinstein’s elementary school as well as schools named for historical figures who “owned slaves, perpetuated human-rights abuses, or oppressed minorities, women, and the LGBT community.”
That renaming list includes presidents George Washington, Herbert Hoover, and Abraham Lincoln, and inventor Thomas Edison.
The decision to rename the schools is not final, nor have they yet been officially recommended to be renamed.
Abraham Lincoln will lose his namesake school, the Free Beacon notes, because despite freeing the slaves through the Emancipation Proclamation — bringing an end to the practice of slavery in the United States — and prosecuting a war over the issue, Lincoln was insufficiently anti-racist for San Francisco’s tastes.
“According to the district, Lincoln, who emancipated slaves, did not demonstrate that ‘black lives mattered to him,'” the outlet notes.
The district added that “the majority of [Lincoln’s] policies proved to be detrimental to [Native Americans],” citing the 1862 Homestead Act — which promised 160 acres of land to individuals willing to populate the western United States — and the subsequent Pacific Railway Act.
“Abraham Lincoln is not seen as much of a hero at all among many American Indian Nations and Native peoples of the United States, as the majority of his policies proved to be detrimental to them,” the board noted during its meeting. They later added that Lincoln presided over “rampant corruption in the Indian Office, the precursor of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”
Lincoln was also insufficiently committed to the plight of black Americans.
“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,” the committee determined.
The renaming committee’s chairman, first-grade teacher Jeremiah Jeffries, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Lincoln’s considerable achievements did not wash away his sins.
“The discussion for Lincoln centered around his treatment of First Nation peoples, because that was offered first,” Jeffries noted. “Once he met criteria in that way, we did not belabor the point.”
This article has been revised to clarify that while the schools were included on the list, the decision to rename them is not final nor has it been officially recommended.