Confederate president’s name to disappear from Biloxi school

Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Mississippi district is removing Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ name from an elementary school and has chosen a new name that highlights geography rather than history.

Back Bay Elementary will be the new name of the school in Biloxi. The local school board approved the change Nov. 17 after a committee discussed dozens of possibilities, WLOX-TV reported. New signs will go up on campus in January.

Davis was a U.S. senator from Mississippi before the Civil War. At the end of his life, he lived in a Biloxi home called Beauvoir, which faces the Gulf of Mexico. Davis died in New Orleans in 1889, and Beavoir has been a museum for decades.

Amid the widespread discussion of racial injustice in the United States in recent years, local governments — particularly in the South — have been reconsidering the public display of Confederate monuments and some have renamed schools and other buildings that were previously named for Confederate figures.

The Biloxi School District announced in September that it would rename Jeff Davis Elementary, which was built from 1960 to 1961. Around the South, schools were often named to honor Confederate figures during the 1950s and 1960s, as a way of demonstrating opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional.

The first Black students arrived at Jeff Davis Elementary in August 1964. A group of Black parents, led by civil rights leader Dr. Gilbert Mason, had won a victory at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that year, which required the district to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.”

Today, about 18% of Jeff Davis students are Black, according to the Mississippi Department of Education. About 11% are Hispanic or Latino, 56% are white and 9% are two or more races.