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New NAACP President: School Names Lawsuit "Breathes New Life”

Robert Barnette, President, Virginia State Conference NAACP
Robert Barnette, President, Virginia State Conference NAACP (Photo: Charles Fishburne)
The newly-appointed president of the Virginia State Conference NAACP, says a federal lawsuit filed last week over confederate school names in Hanover County  could breathe new life into the organization and have national repercussions.    Robert Barnette lives in Hanover County and it was his branch that initiated the federal lawsuit to change the names of Stonewall Jackson Middle School  and Lee Davis High school.   “We have African-Americans who are compelled to wear school uniforms that identify themselves as confederates and rebels. And really the government, the local government shouldn’t be compelling students to do that.”   The lawsuit says it violates their First Amendment rights and their 14th Amendment rights under Equal Protection and it could pave the way for similar suits across the country.  He says they have been before the school board for decades. It recently voted 5-2 to keep the name after 75% of some 13,000 respondents to their survey said they were against renaming the schools.   “The time has come.  Not only  Charlottesville, but a month ago, we found that the KKK was recruiting in Hanover County."   Barnette was named president last week in an abrupt move by the NAACP and he says this issue could rejuvenate the organization.   “I think it could.  We have gotten support all over the county and all over the Commonwealth and so this is a federal lawsuit really has not been tested to the extent we are bringing these federal charges against the Hanover County School Board.”   The Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs filed the lawsuit in U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of the Hanover County Branch of the NAACP.    Hanover officials say they won’t comment on pending litigation.