History Meets Mythology: Debate Stirs over Push to Rename T.C. Williams High School, of ‘Remember the Titans’ Fame

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tags: civil rights, Virginia, football, desegregation


The name “T.C. Williams High School” conjures more memories than most alma maters.

For millions of Americans who never laid eyes on the sprawling brick building in Northern Virginia, the name brings thoughts of the 2000 film “Remember the Titans.” It was at T.C. Williams that trailblazing black coach Herman Boone — played in the movie by Denzel Washington — guided an integrated football team through a perfect season, to a 1971 state championship and into Hollywood-fueled immortality.

For students and graduates of the Alexandria high school, the film is secondary. T.C. Williams means the place where they studied, often got too little sleep and sometimes forged lifelong friendships. Some alumni remember integrating the school when it opened in 1965. An even smaller number boast of playing on the 1971 team.

But until recently, few thought much about the school’s namesake: Thomas Chambliss Williams, who served as superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools in Northern Virginia from the 1930s to the 1960s. Williams, a racist, resisted integration, argued black and white students learn differently and fired a black cafeteria worker when she joined a NAACP lawsuit compelling Alexandria to end segregation.

Now, though, Thomas Chambliss is all anyone is talking about.

“Having to go to a school named for someone who doesn’t see you as human is unbearable,” said Josefina Owusu, a 17-year-old senior at the high school who is African American. “It’s essential to change the name.”

She is among a large and vocal group of students, parents and alumni who are petitioning the school board to rechristen T.C., as it is known locally. Efforts like this have started and failed a handful of times over the past three decades, but the most recent push is seeing unprecedented success: Last month, the school board voted to begin a “robust public engagement process to consider” renaming the school.

Read entire article at Washington Post

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