The school was named after journalist, orator and white supremacist Henry W. Grady in 1947.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Grady was managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution in the 1880s), a petition to rename the school signed by 180 students was submitted to the school board at its February meeting. The petition cites Grady’s racist views and support of segregation as the reason for the change.
On Jan. 31, the high school’s newspaper, The Southerner, published a lengthy online story written by co-editor Charlotte Spears that shows a divide among students past and present.
The petition suggests now is the time to change the name as the school embarks on a $40 million expansion and renovation. The petition reads in part: “With the upcoming renovation, we believe now is the time for our school to realize a more inclusive vision, one that can only be achieved when all students can proudly wear school apparel and shout school chants without being forced to honor a segregationist.”
Alternate names suggested in the petition include pioneering African-American journalist Ida B. Wells and civil rights attorney Donald Lee Hollowell.
Everett Stubin, a white student, quoted in The Southerner article believes the name should be changed. “I hear the argument that it’s part of our history, but I don’t think we need to commemorate him, and I think it’s really backwards that our school still has his name,” Stubin said.
Bradley Hamilton, an African-American student, quoted in The Southerner doesn’t think the change is necessary. “I don’t think we should change it at all because there’s a lot of different things with different names that have racist backgrounds,” said Bradley Hamilton, another African-American student. “That would mean we would have to change all of them. It has a racist background to it, but it is just a name. Like my name, Hamilton, has a racist background to it. So, should I change my name?”
The Atlanta School Board’s policy on naming facilities requires the chairman to appoint a special committee to consider nominations and make a recommendation to the board.
The petition to change Grady High School’s name comes on the heels of the renaming of a number of Atlanta streets – most notably Confederate Avenue in Grant Park – that had connections to Civil War or Jim Crow era figures.