30 June 2019

Should President Monroe's name be expunged from schools?

"Over objections from a vocal group of alums, the St. Paul school board voted Tuesday evening to drop James Monroe’s name from two school buildings.

Troubled by the fifth U.S. president’s slave ownership, parents and students at Linwood-Monroe Arts Plus spent a year and a half exploring the change before settling on Global Arts Plus. Students on Tuesday said the new name reflects the magnet school’s students, who come from all over the city and world to attend classes in the Summit Hill and West Seventh neighborhoods...
Its namesake, James Monroe, was the fifth U.S. president, one of 12 to own slaves during his lifetime and one of eight to do so while in office.
“It’s a critically important issue that James Monroe was a slave owner, and that doesn’t reflect the kids that go to Linwood-Monroe in the slightest,” PTO president Jason Johnson said in an interview.

Thirty percent of the dual-campus school’s students are African-American and about as many are white.
Patrick Fleury, a 1966 Monroe High graduate, called the name change a waste of tax money. New school signs and uniforms for the band and sports teams are expected to cost close to $13,000...

The St. Paul district has two other schools named for slave-owning presidents: the grades 6-12 Washington Technology Magnet and Jackson Elementary."


  1. While I agree that slave-ownership makes Monroe a fairly awful person, this kind of sanitization of history amounts to nothing more than censorship in the end. And there's no place for censorship in a free society. Added to that is the dilemma that we should all be familiar with; that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it... and when you look at the issues facing America today, it's clear we haven't learned anything from the Civil War era.

    I don't know enough about James Monroe to know whether or not he was a worthy figure to name a school after. I do know three things; he was a President, he owned slaves, and he should be remembered by history as the sum total of ALL his achievements, good and bad. Not expunged because of one, very common, moral failing of his time. We have no right to judge any historical figure by our own standards, any more than our descendants will have the right to judge us by theirs. All we can do is the best we can with what we have.

  2. I find that a fundamental failing in how we teach the current generation of the great men of history is that we let them confuse what is "great" with what is "good". The founders were certainly great men, with a vision and intellect that pushed the philosophy behind human freedom forward into the modern version of democracy we still use today.

    They were also human. They were ambitious, hypocrites, conniving, self-serving, and greedy. They owned slaves, as many of the upper class in America did, some of them regretfully, and some without a hint of remorse.

    I don't think that you can annihilate the man and still keep the ideas that they upheld. After all, if we condemn them as villains, what reason is there to maintain their philosophy? As imperfect as our democracy is, it remains (in my opinion) the greatest in implementation, an effective balance between the myriad interests and imbalances that the United States holds. There is no alternative that presently exists that would maintain the peace within the country.

    Destroying the memory of these great men of history, as unsavory as they may seem, is ultimately destructive.

  3. They aren’t removing his name from the list of Presidents, just from the list of names we honor schools to be named after.

    Seems perfectly legit. Not a sanitation of history, rather the reverse, not hiding or honoring the terrible parts.

    1. Humbaba said it perfectly. No one is destroying the memory of these presidents -- if having a school named after them is the only thing that was standing between them and obscurity, they clearly did nothing worth remembering. Historical places and people should be learned about from books, museums, and even (when accurate, which is very rare) quality films where there is context and explanation for why they're important, what they did, and what they stood for.

    2. I can't believe they have a city, and apparently a school district, named after a christian saint! Imagine how that makes a Jewish or Muslim student feel.

  4. History happened. There is no changing it. Looking at history through the lens of todays "morals" is absolutely stupid. I feel like I am actually living George Orwells book "1984" by the way the liberals want to look at our past. It happened....get over it. It will not happen again but it did and that is that.

  5. Quick, someone alert Liberia! Their capital city is named Monrovia, after (GASP!) US President James Monroe. Monrovia is one of two National Capitals in the world named after a US President. The other one is also named after a person who owned slaves. Need to get to work to get that one changed, too. Little place on the east coast of North America. Maybe some are familiar with it? Washington, D.C.?


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