A listener attempted to share a report on a Florida public school being named after a staunch, unapologetic White Terrorist (which is a right common thing in many, many spots on the globe). The niggardly ogres at the Orlando Sentinel revoked access to the content. A core aspect of my counter-racism code demands that non-whites not pay a shilling for White people's publications on Racism. In that spirit, the article in question has been liberated. Enjoy and share:
Maynard Evans doesn't deserve to have a name on a high school
- James C. Clark
The debate over where to put Maynard Evans High School has raged for several years, but so far, no one has questioned whether a new school in a new location deserves a new name.
Maynard Evans was a highly respected druggist who served as a member of the School Board and the County Commission during the first half of the 20th century. He died in 1952; the high school opened in 1958, and was named to honor his memory. He was a segregationist [White Supremacist], who helped make sure African-Americans received a second-class education, with shorter school year, teacher salaries far lower than white teachers' and ill-equipped classrooms. As a businessman, he followed both the customs and laws of the time, and made sure African-Americans were not served with whites at his downtown drugstore soda fountains.
Orange County has schools named after one segregationist [White Supremacist] and two men who fought to preserve slavery.
When questions were raised recently about the naming of Fleet Peoples Park after a man who may have been a child molester, Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley and the City Commission moved quickly to rename it. After decades of debate, the School Board in Jacksonville finally changed the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, named for an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
But the Orange County board seems content to stick with Maynard Evans High School, Stonewall Jackson Middle School and Robert E. Lee Middle School. In the case of Stonewall Jackson, the board uses the nickname Jackson gained while fighting to preserve slavery. The Lee and Jackson schools are not a legacy of the Civil War, but were named after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in 1954 ordering school integration. The Orange County board was trying to show its contempt for the court and signal that it would defy the ruling.
There are two tragedies here. First, the board does not see that it is cruel to send hundreds of [non-white] students to schools named for people who fought to keep them as second-class citizens.
But the greater tragedy is that all seven board members and Chairman Bill Sublette have decided to overlook the contributions of local residents who deserve to have a school named for them.
There is Zora Neale Hurston, the world-famous writer who grew up in Eatonville and set many of her books and short stories around Orlando.
A second Eatonville resident, Deacon Jones, became one of the greatest football players in the National Football League - he was named one of the 100 greatest by the league. One of his earliest memories was seeing a group of white kids laugh while throwing a watermelon at an elderly black woman in Eatonville. The woman later died. Jones was thrown out of all-black South Carolina State College and lost his football scholarship when he took part in a civil-rights demonstration in the 1950s.
Musician Ray Charles got his professional start in Orlando, playing in the black clubs in Parramore, for afternoon teas for whites atop the Angebilt Hotel, and even for a country-western band in Kissimmee.
Harry T. Moore was the first civil-rights leader to be assassinated. On Christmas night in 1951, he was killed by members of the Apopka Ku Klux Klan. It was Moore who filed the first lawsuit demanding equal pay for African-American teachers in Florida.
John Ellis, a former Jones High School teacher, forced the county School Board to integrate high schools when he insisted his daughter, Evelyn, be allowed to attend any school she wanted. His suit against the board came eight years after the Supreme Court ordered schools to be integrated.
In the case of Maynard Evans, the school could be named for any of those, or named Pine Hills High School, giving the neighborhood some badly needed identity and a source of pride.
The list is almost endless, with possibilities including actor Buddy Ebsen, Nobel Prize winner Marshall Nirenberg or Congressional Medal of Honor winner Cpl. Larry Smedley.
There is almost no way the board can go wrong, unless it clings to the 19th century.
James C. Clark is a lecturer in the University of Central Florida History Department.