Stonewall Jackson High School Logo

As communities across the country examine how they memorialize Confederate leaders in the wake of a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Prince William County School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers is launching a push to rename a pair of schools named for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

Sawyers announced the proposal Aug. 16, just a few days after a woman was killed when a man drove into a group of counter protesters at the Charlottesville rally. The school board chairman — who is also running for Congress as a Democrat — said the past weekend’s events inspired him to launch a new effort to change the names of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School, both located in Manassas.

“Stonewall Jackson will certainly be honored in history, but he shouldn’t be celebrated with school names,” Sawyers said in an interview. “These aren’t people that should be looked up to with public money...This man actively fought to enslave people and prevent them from having an education and to sell off their children and their offspring. We shouldn’t have schools named after him. We just shouldn’t. It’s time to make those changes.” 

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Thomas Jonathan Jackson, one of the most famous generals to fight for the Confederacy, earned his nickname while fighting in Manassas, a detail that is not lost on Sawyers. But he believes there are plenty of “real American heroes here to name these schools after,” and he plans to start the process in earnest when the school board reconvenes next month.

“I’m not the one who gave Stonewall Jackson his nickname,” Sawyers said. “It just so happens that he got it right here in Prince William County and it’s time to bring it to an end.”

Sawyers acknowledges that changing the schools’ names won’t come without some additional expense. He’s estimating that it’ll cost about $250,000 to pay for the necessary signage and decorations at Stonewall Middle and another $500,000 to do so at Stonewall High. 

But he’s created a GoFundMe page to raise private donations to help fund the effort and “make it as much of a no-brainer as we can.”

“I understand that, as a school board, If we spend a penny on something that someone disagrees with, they’ll say it could've gone to students, and I understand that,” Sawyers said. “But a kid who goes to Stonewall Middle and Stonewall Jackson High spends more than half their career under his name, and that’s an educational experience I think we can prevent from happening.”

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Sawyers is plenty familiar with community pushback surrounding a school name change with racial overtones — the board voted to rename Godwin Middle School last year as part of a complex compromise, choosing to honor African-American activist George Hampton over former Virginia Gov. Mills Godwin, who resisted school integration during the civil rights era. 

But while that change was sudden, proposed as a late compromise by Justin Wilk of the Potomac District, Sawyers expects to fully engage the community this time around.

“Ideally, we would’ve gone to the community first last time,” Sawyers said. “I want to talk to our community leaders to see what they think the possibilities are.”

Sawyers seems sure to attract pushback from at least one corner of the county — his counterpart on the Board of County Supervisors, Chairman-at-Large Corey Stewart, built the bulk of his campaign for the Republican nomination in the Virginia governor’s race around protecting Confederate monuments in Charlottesville. 

Stewart didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Sawyers’ proposal, but in recent days, he’s condemned other efforts to remove Confederate statues nationwide.

“We must protect history or the Founding Fathers are next,” he tweeted Aug. 15. “The left's goal is to discredit the Founders/founding documents.”

Stewart also hesitated to condemn the white supremacists at the Charlottesville rally, choosing to instead predict in a statement that “pundits and academics in media will use the events in Charlottesville as yet another excuse to silence and punish the speech of those with whom they disagree.” 

Yet Sawyers sees his proposal not as an erasure of history or censuring of speech, but merely an attempt to make all students in the Manassas schools feel more welcome.

“We certainly will teach the history of the Civil War, and we’ll teach the history of why states seceded for their rights to own other human beings,” Sawyers said. “But to me, there’s no historical reason to celebrate Stonewall Jackson and what he fought for.”

(25) comments

Tony Gaujot

They should seriously consider naming the high school David Robinson HS. Robinson is a PWC HS graduate, 2X Olympic Gold Medal Winner, Graduated from the Naval Academy, was an officer in the Navy, was named the college player of the year and was a MVP in the NBA. He also is in the basketball hall of fame and has always been an extreme class act and represented PWC and Manassas very well. I'm really surprised PWC and Manassas haven't already named thing after him. Men with far inferior character and credentials have schools, roads, buildings, etc. named after them. Their mascot could be the Admirals. This would also be a great gesture to the African American community.

vagirl2017

I saw this posted on Facebook this afternoon and I think it's absolutely deplorable that history is being destroyed because people don't know their TRUE history lessons!!

After the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, precipitated by the city government’s decision to remove the statue of Confederate Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park, we should be struck by how the animosity toward Lee is based on ignorance of the man and his cause.

The case against honoring Lee seems to be that the Civil War was fought to abolish slavery, and since General Lee (shown) was the most important military leader of the side that supposedly was fighting to “keep slavery,” no monuments should remain honoring his memory — even in his home state of Virginia.

Slavery was certainly a source of friction between the northern and southern sections of the country, contributing to the decision of seven southern states — Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas — to secede from the Union. But one must also look at other factors as well, such as the tariff, which tended to help the economy of the industrialized North at the expense of the mostly agrarian South. In fact, it had almost caused the secession of South Carolina a generation earlier.

And secession was not just a “Southern idea.” Northern states, more than once, had threatened secession earlier in U.S. history, largely due to their resentment at the outsized influence of Virginia in the Union.

After seven states left the Union in late 1860 and early 1861, eight states where slavery remained a legal institution were still in the Union. If the war had been fought to abolish slavery, one wonders why President Abraham Lincoln did not call for an invasion of those eight states, as well.

One of the states that had not seceded was Virginia, where slavery was on the decline, and was expected to eventually go away as it had in the northern states, when it was no longer economically viable. Before Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to “suppress the rebellion” in the South, Virginia had no intention of leaving the Union. But once faced with a decision of either invading fellow states or joining the seceded states, Virginia reluctantly seceded, as well.

General Lee lamented that he could not draw his sword against his home state of Virginia, and thus tendered his resignation from the U.S. Army. He was soon offered a general’s commission in the army of the Confederate States.

In short, Virginia’s secession had nothing to do with slavery, and Lee’s decision to leave the U.S. Army was because he could not bear to fight against his home state.

It had nothing to do with protecting slavery, which he detested.

He had inherited slaves; however, he freed them. In an 1856 letter, Lee wrote of his hope that slavery would eventually disappear," declaring, “There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. He called for prayer to see the “final abolition of human slavery” through peaceful means.

Writing in the Confederate Veteran of August 1905, Col. T.L. Broun of Charleston, West Virginia, recalled having been present at St. Paul’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, in June 1865. “It was communion day; and when the minister was ready to administer the holy communion, a negro in the church arose and advanced to the communion table. He was tall, well-dressed, and black. This was a great surprise and shock to the communicants and others present. Its effect upon the communicants was startling, and for several moments they retained their seats in solemn silence and did not move, being deeply chagrined at this attempt to inaugurate the ‘new regime’ to offend and humiliate them during their most devoted Church services. Dr. Minnegerode [the minister, although his name was evidently misspelled] was evidently embarrassed.”

Broun continued: “General Robert E. Lee was present, and ignoring the action and presence of the negro, arose in his usual dignified and self-possessed manner, walked up the aisle to the chancel rail, and reverently knelt down to partake of the communion, and not far from the negro. This lofty conception of duty by Gen. Lee under such provoking and irritating circumstances had a magic effect upon the other communicants (including the writer), who went forward to the communion table.”

“By this action of Gen. Lee,” Broun concluded, “the services were conducted as if the negro had not been present. It was a grand exhibition of superiority shown by a true Christian and great soldier under the most trying and offensive circumstances.”

Besmirching the memory of General Lee by attacking him as a slave-owning racist who led a bloody rebellion to preserve slavery that cost well over 600,000 American lives is despicable. Edward Smith, director of American Studies at American University in Washington, D.C, and the co-director of The Civil War Institute (who contends that the above story is absolutely true), wrote in National Geographic News on September 7, 2001, “Today, and deservingly so, Lee is honored throughout the country.”

Unfortunately, Smith continued, “there are many Southerners who claim to cherish Lee and revere the flag for which he so nobly fought but still harbor rabidly racist sentiments toward blacks and their long delayed social progress. Such people do not honor Lee; instead they disgrace him.”

And such historical ignorance has contributed to the movement to tear down monuments to the great man — even if it leads to violent confrontations, as in Charlottesville, Virginia.

America First

VAgirl, this is the standard 'Southern academic' whitewash weve seen since the early 20th century to excuse their actions. Slavery is still wrong and so is treason.

3skimo

Any attempt to argue the causes of the Civil War just muddies the waters. Robert E. Lee swore an oath to God to defend The United States of America. Instead, he took up arms and led troops in battle against the US Army. His actions were treasonous, and he should have been court-martialed and hanged.

John Sebastian

I wonder what these busybodies will do when they realize most Union generals later went and fought in the genocidal Indian Wars. Sherman himself called for the extermination of the Lakota people and other tribes. Yet we adorn public spaces with statues and monuments dedicated to these symbols of hate.

America First

Valid points Haymarket. Where do you draw the line? Trump and Corey Steward are suggesting that this thing will unravel and we will have to take down the Washington monument and the Jefferson memorial because they were both slave owners. It is true that they were slave owners, and that was very wrong, but they are not being memorialized for being slave owners, they are being memorialized for being the founding fathers of the USA. The British saw them as traitors to the Crown and if they had not won the American Revolution, we would not have their statuses. Lee, Davis and Stonewall Jackson are being memorialized not because they were slave owners, but because they were confederate leaders who fought against the United States of America. Take down memorials to traitors to the USA.

RenaVA

If you don't like those areas then don't go to them or better yet, leave the USA. What country can you name in the world that has not had something horrible happen in its past? Please, let me know.

3skimo

What country can you name where statues are erected to glorify those who tried to split apart said country?

Boogereating Clinton

While we are at it, PLEASE remove history books from the school system, that offends me

America First

Again Boogier, you are deflecting from the real issue with nonsensical comments. The civil war should absolutely be recorded in history and taught to our children. Deal with the real issue: honoring traitors to the United States of America because they would rather keep their slaves than allegiance to the USA.

Fire storm

Sawyers is trying to make a name for himself by capitalizing on the tragedy in Charlottesville. Maybe its time for him to go rather than Stonewall Jackson.

Stonewall Jackson and Manassas are almost synonymous. I also believe Sawyers assured the community, when he spearheaded removing the Godwin name from a school, that there were no plans to change SJHS or SJMS. Was this a lie? Apparent so.

America First

Once again Fire Storm you are missing the point. This issue is greater than the motives of Sawyers and the current political turmoil. It is about doing the right thing.

America First

I have always been puzzled by those who enamor, glamorize and are infatuated with the Confederacy. They fail to have the true perspective that the Confederacy was the enemy of the United States of America. Confederates made a conscious decision to take up arms, revolt and conduct violence against our great nation, resulting in the deaths of at least a half a million combatants on both sides and unknown numbers of civilian casualties, rather than emancipate slaves in a peaceful manner such as in England, Brazil. They have caused deep wounds and strife that we are still painfully experience today, over 150 years later. In place of the pre-civil war antebellum structure, leaders in the South managed to maneuver things so that the South remained dominated by many of the same wealthy elites who had created this debacle. Slavery was replaced with systemic oppression of poor blacks enforced largely by the pitting of poor whites against them in a system of structured (Jim Crow laws) and ongoing terror (KKK) that lasted for another century. And regrettably it still manifests itself today as revealed in Charlottesville.
These present-day confederate sympathizers probably don’t realize that forty percent of the Virginians in the US military at the outbreak of the Civil War had the fortitude to remain with the USA and not resign their commissions to join forces revolting against the USA. Frankly, I admit that I have a South Carolina forefather who resigned his commission from the US Army to become a general officer of the Confederacy. These brave soldiers sacrificed loss of family and societal relationships, property and possession for doing what was morally right against slavery and to maintain their loyalty for which they swore an oath of allegiance to the United States of America. Where are the statues and school names in Virginia for proud Virginians who fought for the USA against the revolt and the enemy, such as General George Thomas and Admiral David Farragut? Remember that General Robert E. Lee was a traitor convicted of treason by the US District Court of Virginia for his leading enemy forces against the United States of America. It was only through the desires for reconciliation and healing by Americans in the Reconstruction era such as General Grant that Lee was not executed for his crimes.
Reading through some of these pathetic excuses in the comments grieve me, and should grieve you too.
- As a Christian, I believe that Stonewall Jackson’s bible study for slaves does not absolve him of his sins.
- It is true that the Democrats have an unfortunate legacy of supporting Jim Crow and other racist barriers. As the Democrats began to gravitate more and more towards support for labor and liberal concepts, the Nixon Republicans recognized that they could gain the allegiance of the ‘Dixie Democrats’ who opposed the rest of the democratic party that was calling for civil rights and the opposed the maintenance of the Jim Crow segregationist laws.
- Sure Trump has fanned the flames of this conflict. But it is not about him. For example, Trump didn’t cause Dylan Roof to shoot the bible study participants in Charleston, SC. Regardless of Trumps actions, don’t let that distract you from recognizing that this problem continues to exist and needs to be resolved.
- Accusations of attempts to erase history are ridicules. I went to high school in Germany when my father was stationed in the US Army there. Germans very much know their Nazi history, but the victors of World War II ensured that Germans would not glorify, commemorate, and honor Nazi leaders. Since the late 1800s through today, Americans failed to properly balance reconciliation with those people who supported the confederacy, with permitting confederate leaders to be commemorated rather than being acknowledged as traitors who failed in their attempt to ripe the United States of America apart.
Don’t let nice things done by a traitor, legacy of political parties, comments by the current president, or concern to preserve history distract you from the issue at hand: glorification honoring traitors to the United States of America who had the moral decay to selfishly desire to subject humans in subterfuge of slavery is wrong and that glorification needs to stop.
Take the time to reflect deeply and examine your soul to do the morally right thing. My forefather, and these other traitors, does not deserve honor and commemoration.

Michael Bell

Well said! Thank you.

RenaVA

Absolve Stonewall Jackson of his sin? That will only be done by Jesus Christ, and no one else. Who are you to say that what he did during that horrible time in our history he was compelled to do? Were you there? Do you further insight to the events, people, and other things going on during the Civil War? The war was NOT about freeing the slaves, in fact, the Emancipation Proclamation was hastily put together by President Lincoln to calm the people down and to obtain more fighting men for the Union Army.

A country that erases their history will have no future. If you don't know that or understand that then you are brainwashed or brain dead.

Obama is a huge puppet of the NWO and was able to make contacts here in the USA and abroad to further their agenda and the continued effort to destroy the USA. Many in Congress today should not be there at all. In fact, 60 years ago they would all have been charged as traitors and dealt with accordingly.

The US Civil War could have been averted but the powers that be back then wanted war to make more money and to pay off debt. It was all about MONEY.

CCW

When you glory hungry Democrat clowns teach the history of the Civil War you better be prepared to explain that the Democrat Party then and since has stood in the way of giving any rights to any blacks at any time.

You are nothing but purveyors of deceptions, lies and wickedness.

This current crap campaign ripping America apart about Confederates and slavery has one purpose, that being getting rid of President Donald Trump no matter what it takes.

The Democrat Party is already in total disarray and shambles nationwide. Is revenge for Hillary Clinton's defeat really worth obliterating everything that's left of your party?

Apparently it is. Everywhere you look now the liberal media (including Inside Nova), the Democrat Party and Establishment Republicans are plowing ahead in a rabid pursuit on the edge of insanity.

Martin Geter

Of course this is about revenge in YOUR mind. Truth is, Trump is obsessess w/ Obama. From the time he lied about Obama's birth. Since then, he can barely complete an 1interview w/o mentioning Obama's name. I imagine a lot of the racist filth that gathered in Cville this past weekend are the very ones that claimed they would leave the US is Obama became President. Did you notice a mass exodus of these Nazis from the US between 2009-2017? Me neither.....just a bunch of noise from racist hypocrites who knew damn well they didnt have the resources to leave the country, but could make it to Cville to protest a statue honoring a treasonous Gen who would not have wanted a statue honor himself or the war that he lost in the first place.

CCW

Obama Good.
Trump Bad.

RenaVA

Lies, lies, lies, lies!!! Obama is the NWO puppet that when in office destroyed us and still works with Communist/Activist groups to continue to destroy the USA.

Ed Pa

Oh I think Trump can manage that on his own. His behavior regarding the violence in Charlottesville is very clear. Why does the Nazi party and the KKK have any place in our society with a sympathizer or even a member like his father as commander in chief?

NOVA1

I completely agree to rename these schools. Also Jefferson Davis Highway (Route 1) needs to be renamed.

RenaVA

Names don't hurt anyone. Stonewall Jackson High School has had that name for over 60 years, and suddenly the leftists and race hating blacks find it offensive. Did they come to some type of massive realization?

Grow UP!!! If the leftists and others hate the USA so much and they think they have it so bad, then you are free to leave and go to another country. But I think if they do leave they will have a very rude awakening and I hope they will never be allowed to re-enter the USA ever in the future.

3skimo

Stonewall Jackson hated the USA so much and thought he had it so bad that he tried to form a new country as a promised land for the benighted, but he failed miserably. He was a traitor and a loser, shot by his own men. Let's just give the schools numbers and leave all this Civil War glorification nonsense behind.

JJ Reynolds

From 1861-1863 General Stonewall jackson was considered the best general on planet Earth.

You leftists are aware that Stonewall created a Bible study class for blacks where they were taught to read and write - in violation of the law at the time? Or are you leftists aware of any actual facts whatsoever?

NOVA1

He was a traitor to United States! There are too many public roads, schools and monuments are named after traitors and it's time to change.

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