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Portland Schools are Being Renamed to Honor Black Leaders and Remove Vestiges of Racism

The Black Lives Matter movement has caused many communities to rename public buildings to reflect greater diversity, and remove vestiges of racism. Happily, we see signs of this in our own area.

Responding to strong efforts of students, alumni, and educators, one Northeast Portland high school is finally being renamed What was previously known as Madison High School has now officially been renamed to Leodis V. McDaniel High.

Leodis V. McDaniel served as the school’s principal until his passing in 1987 at the age of 51. McDaniel was not only remembered as one of the only Black principals in Oregon history during his time in office, but was also deeply admired by his students, and the community.

The Portland School Board voted unanimously to officially rename the school, as its prior title had little to do with the actual history of the school itself, or the community.

President James Madison was responsible for the enslavement of over 100 Black Americans. Understandably, the current students and staff did not accept the racial injustice that name carried over their school, thus a rebranding was launched.

Another candidate who had been considered for the name change was Ella Josephine Baker, a Black civil rights and human rights activist who was a leader of the movement back in the 1960s. Other candidates for the renaming included Minoru Yasui, the first Japanese American graduate from the University of Oregon School of Law, and Mercedes Deiz, the first Black woman to practice law in the State of Oregon.

Each candidate was an important figure in Oregon history. However, the school’s former principal, by virtue of his presence and leadership within the school during his service, particularly stood out.

McDaniel was an important leader in the social justice movement during his time as principal. This renaming marks the second time in the past year that an Oregon high school has been renamed after a person of color, and should be acknowledged as an important step toward racial justice.

These events reflect that institutions within our community are recognizing the importance of honoring those who have been leaders in making this a more just society. Hopefully we will see more of the same as we move forward.

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