NJ elementary school to ditch Thomas Jefferson's name for 1st Black woman to graduate from district

Jefferson Elementary School, soon to be Delia Bolden Elementary School.
Jefferson Elementary School, soon to be Delia Bolden Elementary School. Photo credit Google Street View

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (1010 WINS) — A New Jersey elementary school named after Thomas Jefferson will be renamed after the first Black woman in Maplewood’s school system to graduate high school.

listen to 1010 wins

Jefferson Elementary School, which will officially become Delia Bolden Elementary School by the start of classes on Sept. 8, started the process of renaming itself in August 2021 after community criticism of Jefferson for owning over 600 slaves.

The change is the culmination of a year-long, student-led effort to choose a new name.

All students in the school, which serves third through fifth graders, selected attributes they’d like the school’s namesake to have.

Each fifth grade class then nominated two students to serve as representatives on a Maplewood Board of Education subcommittee.

They submitted the following names:

-Winne Delia Bolden
-Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
-Mathematician Erna Schneider Hoover
-Amalya Lyle Kearse, the first Black woman appointed as a justice on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
-Olympian athlete Joetta Clark Diggs

All of the submissions except Ginsburg were graduates of the Maplewood school system.

“Seeing the work that [the students] did, I think, exceeded the expectations of all of us who participated in that conversation,” said Superintendent Ronald Taylor at a June 29 meeting, according to NJ.com.

The board voted 6-3 in favor of the name change that same day.

Bolden graduated from Maplewood’s Columbia High School in 1912. She was the first Black woman to do so.

In an essay she read at her commencement she decried the U.S.’ treatment of Black people and called for full enfranchisement of African Americans.

The district plans to update the school signs and its website by the start of the school year this fall.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Google Street View