Oscar award-winning actress Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski, Boogie Nights) and Oscar award-winning producer Bruce Cohen (Milk, American Beauty) have teamed up in an effort to rename their high school after someone who didn't fight for the Confederacy.
During the late 1970s, the pair of friends attended J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County, Virginia. The school was named after Stuart, a Confederate general, in 1959, allegedly in protest of the end of segregation in public schools via 1954's landmark Brown v. Board of Education.
Up until 2001, a Confederate flag was featured in the center of the basketball court inside the gymnasium and displayed on their athletic jackets. However, the school still bears the name of Stuart, which Moore calls "reprehensible."
So, the Hollywood heavyweights started a petition drive on Change.org to suggest naming the school after black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Encouraged by the school's diverse student body population -- reported to be 49% Hispanic, 24% white, 14% Asian, and 11% black -- they are fighting to scratch "the name of a man who fought to keep African Americans enslaved."
There are just over 5,000 signatures needed to reach the stated goal of 35,000. The petition states:
No one should have to apologize for the name of the public high school you attended and the history of racism it represents, as we and so many alumni of Stuart have felt the need to do our whole lives.
The killings of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina by a white supremacist who proudly flew and wore the Confederate battle flag was a tragic reminder of how these symbols of hate continue to fuel racism and violence.
We have the support of many current students, represented by Students for Change, and former students, represented by Alumni for Change, as well as the Fairfax County NAACP and People Demanding Action. It’s time to rename J.E.B. Stuart High School. Please sign our petition to help us honor a true leader and hero by creating Thurgood Marshall High School.
The reason for choosing Marshall is because of his work in the civil rights movement, especially his leadership with the NAACP in the Brown v. Board of Education case. He is also stated in the petition as having been "our neighbor and a member of our community."
Moore released a statement to The Washington Post:
We name our buildings, monuments, and parks after exalted and heroic individuals as a way to honor them, and inspire ourselves to do better and reach for more in our own lives. It is reprehensible to me that in this day and age a school should carry and celebrate the name of a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings. I think the students of this school deserve better than that moniker.
Cohen spoke with the Post, saying, "It’s something that embarrassingly none of us stopped to think, ‘How did our school get this name?’ It was more like this embarrassing shrug.”
“The reason why it was never changed is because students never said it was wrong,” Cohen added. “Now that’s changed... finally, there’s real momentum.”