ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — Atlanta Public Schools celebrated the renaming of Joseph E. Brown Middle School after Atlanta native Herman J. Russell. This comes as schools across the nation are removing names of Confederate leaders from their buildings.

For APS staff and students and the West End community, the renaming of Brown Middle School was more than just a ceremony. It was a celebration of the new name: Herman J. Russell West End Academy. “The renaming of our school accelerated our drive, acknowledging our past and setting goals to academically strive,” said Araya Hubbard, a 7th grade scholar. Brown was a former Georgia governor and secessionist who supported slavery. Russell was a civil rights leader, businessman and philanthropist who broke barriers for African Americans and the next generations. Russell’s family says they’re continuing his legacy. “This school was named in 1924. That was 100 years ago,” said H. Jerome Russell Jr., his son. “This is institutional what this means, so I just want to let you know this is heavy. This is some heavy stuff for me and our family,” he added.

The renaming follows the ongoing nationwide trend of renaming schools, especially those named after Confederate leaders. “This name is a reflection of stakeholder input received and was voted on unanimously by both the committee and the Board and Education,” said Atlanta Board of Education Member Aretta Baldon (District 2). “It is the power of a name,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring. “We are all now honorary representatives and representation of the name Herman Russell, leaving a bygone era behind us,” Herring said. “It takes a village to raise a child, so thank you for being that village,” said Tiauna Crooms, the academy’s principal.

Dr. Herring says the goal of this and other renamings is to make sure the schools have names that reflect the values of the community.