Editor: Having read the Sun Gazette’s Sept. 28 article [“Process Put in Place That May Lead to Renaming of Schools”], I commend members of the School Board for taking a thoughtful approach in recognizing the significance of school names, considering new names and engaging the community.

I believe it is the right time to honor the women who changed history and improved education and human rights for African-Americans in Arlington. These include the following notable women who have not been adequately recognized by the Arlington community for their contributions.  

I would like to request that the School Board please consider these notable Arlingtonians when naming/renaming our schools:

• Esther Georgia Irving Cooper (1881-1970): Dissatisfied with the inferior facilities and textbooks offered in the black schools in Arlington County, Esther Cooper worked to improve educational opportunities for African-American children. In 1940, she organized and became the first president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP. In collaboration with the state NAACP, the Arlington branch challenged inequalities in the county’s high school facilities. Their efforts culminated in Carter v. School Board of Arlington County (1950), in which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the county’s separate high schools constituted unlawful racial discrimination.

• Dorothy Hamm (1919-2004): Dorothy Bigelow Hamm (and her son, Edward Leslie Hamm Jr.) joined a civil case in 1956 that sought to end segregation in Arlington schools. In 1958, a U.S. District Court judge ordered that four African-American children be admitted to the all-white Stratford Junior High School the following year. In 1963, Hamm and her husband, Edward Leslie Hamm Sr., participated in a challenge to Virginia’s poll tax. That same year, she took part in a court action resulting in the desegregation of Arlington theaters, and was arrested for publicly protesting their whites-only admittance policies.

• Gloria D. Thompson was born in 1946 to parents Clarence and Ethel Thompson. The Thompson family lived in Arlington’s Africa-American Hall’s Hill neighborhood. Her mother Ethel was involved with the NAACP and added her children to Arlington’s school integration cases. On February 2, 1959, 12-year-old Gloria became one of four black students, and the only young woman, to integrate Arlington’s Stratford Junior High School. After participating in such a major Civil Rights victory, she continued her activism as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Elizabeth Allan, Arlington

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