2 Philadelphia schools abandon racist legacies of namesakes

School board to vote on Gloria Casarez Elementary School and Castor Gardens Middle School

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As the nation’s racial reckoning continues, two more Philadelphia schools are moving away from namesakes with racist legacies.

Students, parents and staff at Philip H. Sheridan Elementary School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School this week announced the results of community votes on the name changes. Sheridan would become Gloria Casarez Elementary School, and Wilson would be renamed Castor Gardens Middle School.

“We were looking to find a name that represented our school and the goal of inclusion,” Sheridan’s assistant principal Julio Nunez told KYW Newsradio. Philip H. Sheridan was a Civil War general who forced Native Americans onto reservations. He was known for saying “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

The Sheridan community voted to rename the school after Gloria Casarez, the city’s first director of LGBT affairs. “It was 46% of the vote in favor of her. There were three other candidates on the ballot,” Nunez said. “The majority of the students, by the way, voted on that and the majority of them selected her.”

Casarez, who died in 2014, attended Sheridan. “The community voted, selected that name. And we’re very proud that now we stand with her for inclusion as well, as we move forward,” Nunez said.

The community at Woodrow Wilson Middle School on Cottman Avenue no longer wanted to be associated with former president Woodrow Wilson, who re-segregated the federal workforce. Castor Gardens was announced Tuesday night as the community’s choice.

Other area schools have also chosen to move away from namesakes with racist histories. Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden is being renamed Eastside High School next year. And last year Philadelphia’s Andrew Jackson School changed its name to Fanny Jackson Coppin Elementary.

The Gloria Casarez and Castor Gardens names now go to the Philadelphia school board for final approval next month.

Featured Image Photo Credit: John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives