'Remember the Titans' High School Changes Its Name Due to Racist Origins

T.C. Williams High School, which became the focal point of the film Remember the Titans, is changing its name. The reason is that the namesake, Thomas Chambliss Williams, was a "known racist who did everything possible" to slow down the process of integration." The school's athletic teams will still feature the Titans moniker.

A petition to change the name surfaced in 2020 amid a nationwide discussion about racism. Students began draping sheets over the school sign in an attempt to cover up Williams' name. These students pledged to continue doing so until the school acted to make some changes. A vote then took place in November, unanimously passing and kickstarting the process to rebrand the school.

In addition to changing the name of the high school, the school board also voted to make a change at Matthew Maury Elementary School in Alexandria. Maury was a Confederate general who represented the Confederate cause in Europe and tried to create a new Virginia settlement in Mexico where slavery could continue. Matthew Maury Elementary School will now have the name of Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School in honor of an educator who passed away in 2020.

According to Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D., the primary reason for the successful campaign to change the name is that students are more engaged. He explained that some people in Virginia would not necessarily know the origins of the school names or why they would not receive positive comments.

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"I think it means a lot to this community because if we asked people back in June what they knew about Thomas Chambliss Williams or what they knew about Matthew Maury, many people wouldn’t have a response," Hutchings said. "But I can tell you today, especially with our young people, they do know who these individuals were and why these names should not be plastered on our schools."

The proposed name changes at both education centers will occur on July 1 in time for the new school year and athletic seasons. When the athletes take to the football field, basketball court, or golf course, they will still have the Titans nickname. They will just have a different school name to go along with the moniker.