The front sign of Nathanael Greene Elementary School at 3525 S. Honore St., Chicago, hearkens to its namesake, who owned slaves on a Georgia plantation following the U.S. Revolutionary War.

Name Changes Portended for McKinley Park Neighborhood Schools

Published May 2, 2021

After the first CPS school officially changed its name recently, three McKinley Park neighborhood schools named after slave owners are waiting to learn whether they too will get new names.

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The board of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) voted in late March to change the name of Agassiz Elementary School – named after Louis Agassiz, a biologist who espoused racist ideologies – to Harriet Tubman IB World School. Tubman was an abolitionist who escaped slavery in the 1800s and ultimately rescued at least 70 people from slavery.

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At least 30 Chicago Public Schools “are named for people who owned or traded enslaved Black or indigenous people,” according to a Chicago Sun-Times review of every public school name in Chicago.

The Sun-Times reports that Maurice Swinney, chief equity officer for CPS, promised to look at changing the names first at neighborhood schools named for people involved in slavery. Three McKinley Park neighborhood schools fit that description.

Everett Elementary School

Edward Everett Elementary School serves about 125 preschool through 5th graders. The school at 3419 S. Bell Ave., Chicago, is named after Edward Everett, who was a congressman from Massachusetts, a vice presidential candidate in 1860 and president of Harvard University.

From the Chicago Sun-Times school name database:

“While serving as a congressman from Massachusetts, Everett (1794-1865) expounded on the issue of slavery during a debate on amending the Constitution, noting that 'the New Testament says "Slaves obey your masters,"' and accepting the document even though it contained the Three-Fifths Compromise. He was criticized for his apparent endorsement of slavery, and was dogged by the speech for the rest of career despite his justifications that he rejected the slave trade and kidnapping people into slavery.”

Greene Elementary School

Nathanael Greene Elementary School at 3525 S. Honore St., Chicago, serves about 360 preschool to 5th grade students. It is named after Nathanael Greene, a major general during the United States Revolutionary War. According to the Chicago Sun-Times database:

“Born into a wealthy Quaker family in Rhode Island, Greene had proposed that slaves, including his own, be armed to fight in the Revolutionary War, and freed in return for their military service. After resigning his commission, he moved south and made his home at one of the plantations he was given in thanks for his service to the war, the one near Savannah, Ga. There, he purchased more slaves to work his plantations.”

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Evergreen Academy Middle School

Evergreen Academy has about 250 students in grades 6 through 8. Located at 3537 S. Paulina St., Chicago, the school combines the name of Everett and Greene schools: its two main feeder schools.

Evergreen Academy Middle School Principal Marian Strok said her school has not been approached by CPS about changing the school name. Thus, Evergreen's Local School Council has not discussed the subject, she said.

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Other local school principals and CPS had not returned requests for comment as of the time of publication of this article.

Swinney told the Chicago Sun-Times that no timelines for name changes had been set, but that the issue would not be ignored.

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