Hinesville graduate’s online petition seeks to change high school’s name to honor civil rights activist

Local News

HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) — A recent Liberty County high school graduate is asking for his community’s support for an online petition he created last month.

Devonte King started a Change.org petition asking for school board officials to consider changing the name of his alma mater, the Bradwell Institute. 

The 18-year-old former class president began the petition in the wake of the nationwide response to racial injustices. 

“After all the recent events with George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery here in our own backyard, I felt  it was time for us to make a positive change in our community,” King told WSAV.com NOW.

He says the person his high school is currently named after — Colonel James Sharp Bradwell — served in the Confederate Army and was also a segregationist.

“After seeing that 50% of our school consists of Black students, I just feel like the name is no longer appropriate, considering we’re in a new era of the school itself and the new demographics,” King said.

“Bradwell was integrated 18 years after Brown v. Board of Education, so it seems like we have to finally take a stand to the type of people we want to reflect on our community in a fond manner,” said King, who will soon head to Washington, D.C. to study political science and economics at Howard University.

King hopes the school can be renamed after Septima Clark, an educator and civil rights activist. 

He says many people he spoke to weren’t aware of who she was before he began the petition, but adds that he finds Clark to be a “very influential” figure.

“She worked here in Liberty County at the Dorchester Academy to teach people how to vote and to teach people how to read, and after seeing the impact she had on the Liberty County education system, I thought there was no better person to name the school after,” King shared.

“Even Martin Luther King Jr. himself said she was the mother of the civil rights movement,” he said. 

Within two hours of getting the word out about the petition in July, King says it had amassed over 200 signatures of support. 

To date, it has gained nearly 700 signatures with a goal of reaching 1,000.

“Future graduates deserve to have a school name that resembles unity and acceptance,” one signee wrote.

King says the petition is much larger than himself, and the support it has garnered thus far demonstrates the strength of his Hinesville community.

“It shows that we’re ready to make a change,” King said. “I know that nothing is done by one person.”

The Liberty County School System says it has been made aware of the petition.

However, superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry told WSAV.com NOW in a statement: “The Board of Education has had no discussions concerning the matter, and we are currently concentrating on beginning the 2020-2021 school year.”

King says once enough people have backed his petition, he hopes to discuss it with school board officials.

“I’m excited to get to sit at the table and talk to them about what we can do for our name,” he said.

While he knows the name “Bradwell Institute” will forever be written on his 2020 high school diploma, he says he’s looking forward, not behind.

“This is about the future of our Liberty County school system and our future students; I have a 3-year-old little brother, and I would love to be able to tell him that we were able to make a change,” King said.  

“It’s just a good feeling to have to know that we’re making a change for the future,” he said.

View the Change.org petition to change the name of the Bradwell Institute to honor Septima Clark by clicking here. 

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