A TV interview posted to Facebook Aug. 6, went viral within the community prompting a quick response and opposition to a petition filed more than a month and a half ago.
On June 24, Bradwell Institute graduate and former class President Devonte King filed a petition on change.org, seeking to change the name of Bradwell Institute.
King said he was motivated to act after the horrific murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. All African-Americans who were killed by the hands of white men or police officers.
King’s petition was slowly gaining signatures. His appearance on TV Aug. 6, which was posted to Facebook was soon seen by many BI alumni, prompting them to file a petition to save the school’s name.
The new petition filed Aug. 6, by Kelly Wiggins garnered more than 1,500 signatures in four days. King’s petition had more than 1,700 signatures as of 3 p.m. Monday.
In his petition King stated that, “Bradwell Institute was named by Captain Bradwell in honor of his father James Sharpe Bradwell both of whom were high-ranking officials for the Confederate Army,” King wrote in his petition. “Neither of the Bradwell men were present for the integration of the school in the 1970’s and given that they fought for protecting the institution of slavery we can assume they would not be receptive of Black students attending the school today.”
King went on to say that Bradwell was a school for elite White children and not meant to be a school for Black students.
“Today however, over fifty percent of the students at Bradwell Institute are Black due to the integration of the school which occurred eighteen years after the historic Brown v. Board of Education case that ruled school segregation unconstitutional,” King wrote.
The outspoken senior said he would like to see the school be named after Civil Rights Activist, Septima Clark, who once taught at Liberty County’s Historic Dorchester Academy.
The Liberty County School System said they are aware of the petitions but are focused on the upcoming opening of the school year.
“The Board of Education has had no discussions concerning the matter and we are currently concentrating on beginning the 2020-2021 school year.” Dr. Franklin Perry, Superintendent of Schools said Monday.
Incoming Liberty County District 2 Board member Marcus Scott IV said he supports the name change posting this statement on Facebook, “As a future board member, I support changing the name of Bradwell Institute.”
One former BI student emailed the Courier saying she doesn’t want to see the school’s name changed.
“I attended BI four years and graduated in 1986. It’s been 34 years and to this day, I only have fond memories of my time there,” said Davia Mobley.
She said she recalls tough classes taught by caring teachers. School Administrators that kept students in line, life-long friendships football games band competitions and having lots of Tiger pride.
“There is so much more, but not one time did I think of a man who lived in 1871 and served in the CSA army. I only knew a vague history that it was found and named after an educator. I believe in change, but I also believe in tradition and history and some things should be left alone. I applaud the young man who initiated the dialogue but why not change the present?”
Mobley said the focus should be on recognizing modern day slavery, slave labor, human trafficking to include children, that is rampant in our society today.
“Trafficking children is this country is a huge problem,” Mobley said. “Children and babies are bought and sold every day for sex. Few talk about that and we should be raising the rooftops screaming for it to change. Our time and energy would be better spent on trying to change current atrocities that are happening right now, instead of worrying about changing the name of a school that holds memories, not of a confederate soldier and his father, but of learning, growing up and becoming the adults that we are now.”
King said changing the school’s name is meant to address the future.
“The petition is not meant to erase history but to pave a new direction in our future,” King said Monday. “Changing the school name reassures all students that our community understands the impact racism has had on Black people and other people of color. In order to truly live in a world where racism is closer to being eradicated, we can no longer celebrate figures that played a role in the suppression and discrimination of our fellow man.”
Several BI alumni said they are ready to defend the school’s name.
The Courier will continue to follow this story as it develops.