By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Students at Patrick Henry High School are organizing to change the name of their school.

“#ChangeTheName” is picking up steam, and now alumni and members of the community are joining the movement.

Students say Patrick Henry’s past as a slave owner was enough to make them want a change.

“You can’t change something unless people know first: what are we changing, why are we changing it?” Patrick Henry student Janaan Ahmed said.

Janaan Ahmed and Farhiyo Hassan says change comes by educating their peers about the damaging effects of upholding what they call oppressive figures, like Patrick Henry.

“Patrick Henry and this institution was created at a time where integration was not allowed and segregation was promoted so if you look at the history and the demographics of people who are living in these neighborhoods, then you would understand the context to us, and why it is so important to us today,” student Farhiyo Hassan said.

Patrick Henry is known for his famous declaration to the second Virginia Convention: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

“I feel like the name does not reflect the students, the school embodies, nor does it reflect the community,” Ahmed said. “And the name is degrading, and it’s oppressive.”

The group wants a name that fully represents everyone who attend the school. They are taking suggestions from students, staff and community members as well as alumni.

Some alumni have told the group why they don’t want the name to change.

“You can’t blame Patrick Henry for a system that was the norm back then, you can’t blame him for owning slaves because that’s what every founding father did,” Ahmed said, explaining the counter-arguments she heard from others.

This group says they can’t be proud of a former Virginia governor who owned slaves. And with a school that is 90 percent students of color — 52 percent black — the group says changing the name of a place they are proud of is a must.

“Is this person worthy enough to be glorified? Is this person worthy enough to be on my diploma? So we want a name that is inclusive, because we don’t want our future generations to struggle when it comes to history and how they are being represented. We want a name that will last forever,” Ahmed said.

An alumni and community gathering is planned for Wednesday at the high school inside its media center.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the students with legal fees.

Reg Chapman

Comments (14)
  1. Hans Zink says:

    Does anyone really care what these two Muslims think?

  2. Public Education is an illegal state sponsored liberal church system. Using taxpayer money to push Marxist ideology rather than Math and science.

    Slavery is still happening in many places in the world, the USA has very little slavery history compared to bigger countries. And you don’t have to go way back a 152 years to prove it either.

    How much you want to bet a 1800’s tobacco farm was laid back compared to a soviet death camp in the 1940’s?

  3. Joe Robeck says:

    This is so sad that our children and young adults have nothing better to do but worry about the name of their high school! What happened to education in this country? We learned about U.S. and World History before we took on something that we didn’t know anything about!

  4. Tom Corbin says:

    I think the students should look at the whole history of patrick henry and what he did During the Civil War era, both sides claimed Henry as a partisan, abolitionists citing his writings against slavery.

  5. “Arab or Islamic slave trade lasted much longer than Atlantic or European slave trade: “It began in the middle of the seventh century and survives today in Mauritania and Sudan”.- Wikipedia

  6. kburnettvop says:

    Shut this down, are get rid of Islam.

  7. First of all, I don’t think these student did much research on Patrick Henry or they would have found out that we was an advocate for ending slavery. Quotes from his peers at the time: Jefferson can be quoted speaking of Patrick Henry stating that he was “even more determined in his opposition to slavery then the rest of us.” Jefferson also credits Henry with allowing Virginians to find “the moral courage to take a bold and decided stand.”