Chicago School Renamed to Honor Civil Rights Activist Tubman

CHICAGO (AP) -- A Chicago elementary school has unveiled a new sign letting people know it is leaving behind the name of a racist and will instead honor a woman known for helping Black people escape slavery, Harriet Tubman.

The sign comes about a year after a group of parents successfully pushed for the school -- long named after Swiss American biologist Louis Agassiz -- to change its name to the Harriet Tubman Elementary School.

Officials at Chicago Public Schools are letting other schools in the city change their names after the Chicago Sun-Times reported in late 2020 that 30 of its schools were named after slaveholders and others were named after racists such as Agassiz.

The Board of Education could vote on an updated policy for school name changes next week, the Sun-Times reported.

CPS said in a statement that the new name is "more inclusive and representative" of the district's values.

"The CPS Office of Equity is committed to a comprehensive review process to consider new school names when a school is named after individuals who do not represent the values of our students, families, faculty and support staff," CPS said.

Agassiz, was a biologist at Harvard in the 1800s and a proponent of scientific racism who sought to prove Blacks were inferior to other races. Two decades ago, a school committee in Cambridge, Massachusetts, voted to strip his name from a school there and rename it for Maria L. Baldwin, who years earlier was the first Black principal of the school.

The Harriet Tubman Elementary School on Chicago's North Side joins a long list of schools around the country to be named after the one-time slave who helped Black people to escape slavery in the South via the Underground Railroad in the 1800s.