For much too long, Black and POC students across the country have been forced to attend education systems with the names of people celebrated for their historical acts of oppression against them. According to Education Week, at least 185 schools in the United States are named for men with ties to the Confederacy,
Trude Lamb, a Black teen and incoming high school sophomore, is just one of those students being forced to attend a university with a racist leader.
Recently, she’s decided enough is enough.
Lamb has won countless medals for her school Robert E. Lee High School’s cross country team.
In a recent letter to the school board, Lamb wrote that she would no longer wear the school’s jersey, which features the name “Tyler Lee.” Tyler stands for the Tyler Independent School District which is located in the city of Tyler, Texas. Lee stands for the school’s name, Robert E. Lee High School. According to Lamb, each victory she takes a photo for acts as a painful reminder that she is being forced to inadvertently support Robert E. Lee.
Lamb points out that while Tyler Lee might not be Lee’s full name, it’s “still his name,” Lamb said. “It’s just a shorter version of Robert E. Lee. It still reminds me of who he was,” Lamb told CNN in a recent interview.
Lee was a Confederate general who owned slaves and John Tyler, who was the tenth president of the United States, actively pushed to create the Southern Confederacy.
Lamb added that her school glorifies, Lee in their alma mater as well. The alma mater says “Robert E. Lee we raise our voice in praise of your name. May honor and glory e’er guide you to fame.”
“What has he done for him to be praised like that?” Lamb said of Lee.
According to CNN, in 2018, community members attempted to urge the school board to change the name of the high school.
Unfortunately, after no one seconded the motion during the school board meeting, it failed to pass. Now Lamb and other students are pledging not to wear Lee’s name for school events. A petition is calling the school to change its name and has over 10,000 signatures. Some have also called for the name of another school in the district to also be changed.
On Monday evening, protesters gathered outside the school district’s administration office demanding that the name to be changed.
The issue of the schools’ names change was not on the agenda but Lamb signed up to read her letter for it.
“I am from Ghana, Africa where slavery first began,” Lamb’s letter reads. “I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and seen the three-foot urine and feces stains on the walls where my brothers and sisters were kept. I’ve seen the tiny hole at the top of the ceiling where they would throw food into the captured souls.”
Lamb’s adopted mother, Laura Owens told CNN that if the school’s name isn’t changed before the school year begins she and other parents will look into filing a lawsuit for violation of civil rights.
Check out Lamb’s letter in full below:
I am one of you(r) true African and 1st generation African American students at REL. I am from Ghana, Africa where slavery first began. I came to America in 2014. I have stood in the dungeons of the slave castle and seen the three foot urine and feces stains on the walls where my brothers and sisters were kept. I’ve seen the tiny hole at the top of the ceiling where they would throw food in to the captured souls. I’ve walked through the “Gate of No Return” where over 12 million of my brothers and sisters were kidnapped never to return back to their home.
I have worked the very fields and fetched water for my family from the very places my people were kidnapped.I love and enjoy the sports I play at REL. I can’t be playing sports, supporting, and going to a school that was named after a person who was against my people right here in the United States. He owned slaves and didn’t believe people like me were 100% human let alone ever go to my very high school. I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey. I’m currently the fastest girl on your varsity cross country team. I held that place my 9th grade year and plan to do the same my 10th grade year.I don’t see a future of remembering a person who did nothing for our country and who didn’t care for me or my people. He continues to bring our city down.
As one of your black students, I’m respectfully asking you to take up the REL name change issue. Please vote to change the name, not to “Tyler LEE” but after someone who we can all be proud of. Using the excuse that it would be too expensive, is not okay. This town was built on the backs of my enslaved brothers and sisters. Do it in their memory and honor the future of their ancestors that are at REL.I hope you understand where I am coming from.
,Gertrude “Trude” A. Lamb