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San Francisco to scrub Lincoln, Washington and other names from 44 schools

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A statue of US president Abraham Lincoln is seen inside San Francisco's Abraham Lincoln High School in December 2020./AFP
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Jan 28, 2021 - 12:47 PM

SAN FRANCISCO — Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are no longer in favor in San Francisco, where the school board has voted to change the name of 44 schools it says bear the monikers of people associated with racism, slavery or colonization.

The move, which has sparked much controversy locally, dates back to the creation of a commission in May 2018 to revise the names of public schools, long before statues of Christopher Columbus or figures from the US’ Confederate south were toppled by anti-racism protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s police killing.

The commission created a list of 44 schools to be renamed, such as that bearing the name of Spanish missionary Junipero Serra.

Among them are schools named for presidents Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom owned slaves, as well as Francis Scott Key, the author of the US national anthem.

Surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln — the symbol of the abolition of slavery in the US — is also under fire, accused by some of having played a role in the massacre of Native American tribes.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, 87, is also on the list, which the school board approved in a six-to-one vote.

The commission accuses her of replacing a vandalized Confederate flag that flew among approximately 20 others in front of San Francisco’s city hall, while she was mayor in the 1980s.

The flag, which originated in the pro-slavery south during the US Civil War, has become a symbol of racial discrimination and white supremacy.

The decision to rename schools has sparked sharp criticism, including from the current mayor of San Francisco, London Breed.

Breed, who is the city’s first Black, female mayor, criticized the school board’s decision to focus its energy on renaming schools at a moment when the education system is facing an uphill battle to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic as well as hardships associated with virtual homeschooling.

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