Emily Allen Published

Kanawha County School Board Agrees On ‘West Side Middle School’

Stonewall Jackson Middle School

The Kanawha County Board of Education voted 3-2 during its meeting Thursday night to rename the former Stonewall Jackson Middle School to West Side Middle School.

“We feel the school should have a name that includes everyone that enters it,” said Camdyn Harris, who lives on Charleston’s West Side and who attends the school.

“We as students do not want to exclude any race that attends the school, both now and in the future,” Harris told school board members.

“We are made up of people with leadership skills, effective communicators, people with good work ethic, competitiveness,” he added. “Yes, there is adversity, but there is everywhere. We have our flaws, but every time we have our flaws we come together as a community and we fix those flaws.”

Board members unanimously agreed almost two weeks earlier to remove Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s name from the building, after hearing requests that evening from more than a dozen community members. The building had carried that name since 1940.

Jackson was one of the most notable figures from the Civil War and he owned several slaves. Nearly half of the students at West Side Middle School are Black, according to data from the West Virginia Department of Education.

Another popular contender for the school’s renaming was Katherine Johnson, a Black West Virginian who worked for 33 years as a mathematician for NASA. Johnson died earlier this year at 101 years old.

A motion to name the school after Johnson failed 2-3. An online survey distributed to students and community members after the July 6 meeting included three other names, but West Side and Johnson’s were the most popular picks.

Before the board’s vote Thursday night, some of the community members who spoke said the survey hadn’t been available long enough and it didn’t get enough feedback. 

In Jackson’s birthplace of Clarksburg, Harrison County commissioners voted June 17 against removing a statue of the man, which stands  outside the local courthouse.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.