A New Year, A New Name, A New Image For Lewis

After a student led-initiative to change the name of Lee to Lewis High School, aesthetic changes appear to reflect the new namesake.


Suquesta Myers

The sign above the main entrance to Lewis High School now reflects the name change.

Maryam Baig, Editor-in-chief

In the midst of racial unrest within the United States, John R. Lewis High School underwent change as well. Over the spring of 2020, students attending what was then Lee High School petitioned and convinced the FCPS school board to change the school name. 

The school’s name, which previously honored Commander of the Confederate States Army, Robert E. Lee, was changed to John R. Lewis High School in honor of the late Georgia Congressman. Lewis was a major activist from the Civil Rights Movement. 

Senior Kadija Ismail was one of the students on the frontlines in pushing for a name change. Ismail explained why she and other students were so persistent about changing the name. 

“Robert E. Lee was a confederate general who fought on the side of the Confederacy, and historically that is not inherently a good thing especially [since the Confederate side] supported slavery. The main reason for the name change was to have a person who represented our school body with our diversity and resiliency, and I think Robert E. Lee just wasn’t the person to do that. John R. Lewis, especially with all that he did with the March on Washington and the Civil Rights Movement, was a better choice. By changing the name, we have redefined our student body,” Ismail said.

And changes have been made and continue to be made. In the movement for reimaging Lewis High School, any existing references of Robert E. Lee, including portraits and benches that once bore the old name, have been removed from school premises. 

The most notable change would be the signage, which has now been changed to “John R. Lewis” over the main entrance. The decals within the two large entrance signs, visible from the road, were updated earlier this month. Within advisory class, Lewis students also recently had the opportunity to vote on the artist to paint a Lewis-inspired mural within the main hallway.

Despite these significant changes, the mascot for Lewis High School remains a Lancer. John R. Lewis’s principal, Alfonso Smith, explains the decision to preserve Louis the Lancer as the mascot and the blue and gold colors of Lewis High School.

“I do not believe that the mascot nor the school colors were connected to the concerns with our previous name.  We want as many of our students, staff, and community to connect with our school name and our school values. That can be accomplished as the John Lewis Lancers. All can proudly ‘Behold the Blue & Gold!’” Smith said.

One may wonder as to why the push for a new name took so long. The truth is, the name change had been in the works for a long time. It took consistent effort from multiple generations of students, who all wished to reimagine their high school, to convince the school board. Of course, one major factor that played a hand in the final decision was the historic Black Lives Matter movement. While the entire nation was under civil rights reconstruction, students took the initiative to bring reformation to what was then Lee High School.

Junior Amanda Hurst, who was involved in the name change process in her sophomore year, discussed the factors leading to the final decision by the school board. 

“The name change has been a relevant topic for the past five or so years. We were going to get our name changed at the first school board hearing [March 12] the day before the school shut down. We were supposed to have our new name by June, but after COVID, it seemed like we weren’t going to get a name change. I think what really pushed for it then was the BLM movement because I think a lot of our school board members are progressive and they wanted to make sure that Fairfax County was representing the student body. Since the BLM movement is so prevalent, that was really what pushed the school board members to change the name,” Hurst said.

With a new identity, Lewis students have the ability to build a new reputation for John R. Lewis High School. Named after a man who fought for equality, the diverse student body at Lewis represents a strong core belief of unification, which will carry onto future generations that enter Lewis.