By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – A San Antonio school board has voted to change the name of its Robert E. Lee High School, citing the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as the impetus for no longer wanting to honor the Confederate general.
The unanimous vote on Tuesday night came from the same board that opted two years ago not to change the 59-year-old high school’s name. Several board members said the nation’s attitude toward symbols of the pro-slavery Confederacy had shifted.
Local and state leaders across the country have taken similar actions after an Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville by white nationalists opposed to plans to move a Lee statue turned deadly when a man crashed a car into counter-protesters, killing one woman.
A Lee High School graduate and former teacher, Leslie Wilson, was bothered by the school board’s decision.
“What happened in Charlottesville has absolutely nothing to do with San Antonio,” she said.
But Christopher Herring, who heads the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce, said local students realized the name of their school was out of step.
On Wednesday, the chancellor of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill declined a request from a white nationalist group to rent space on campus for white nationalist Richard Spencer to speak.
“Our basis for this decision is the safety and security of the campus community,” wrote UNC-CH Chancellor Carol Folt in a statement.
In Hollywood, Florida, about 20 miles (32 km) north of downtown Miami, about 150 people gathered ahead of a city commission vote on Wednesday to encourage leaders to rename streets honoring Lee and fellow Confederate Generals Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Bell Hood.
The city’s review of the street names began before the Charlottesville clashes but has taken on renewed significance.
“Lee, Forrest and Hood don’t belong in Hollywood,” the protesters chanted, according to video on the Sun-Sentinel newspaper’s website.
An example of the charged debate over Confederate symbols was seen in Georgia, where a state lawmaker earlier this week wrote that people calling for the removal of Confederate monuments could “go missing” in a local swamp if they visited the district he represents.
Representative Jason Spencer, who is white, posted the comment during a Facebook exchange with former state Representative LaDawn Jones, who is black, according to a screen grab posted on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website.
The comment has been deleted from Spencer’s Facebook page.
(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Chang)