During a Dec. 1 meeting of the Grady Naming Committee, chair Leslie Grant said all 1,495 active students were given a week beginning Nov. 16 to vote on three names – Midtown High School, Piedmont High School, and Ida B. Wells High School – via secure ballot.
Grant said 687 students voted and 61.4 percent of those voted in favor of Midtown High School. The committee voted to accept the results and forward the recommendation to the Atlanta Board of Education for consideration at its Dec. 7 meeting.
The naming committee had originally voted to rename the school in honor of pioneering Black journalist Ida B. Wells, but then asked the school board to postpone voting on the name after community outcry about the process to allow for the student body vote.
The renaming of Grady caused division in the community as evidenced by fighting on community message boards and dueling petitions. A petition to reject Ida B. Wells garnered nearly 2,000 signatures.
The controversy over the renaming reaching a tipping point after a survey sent to parents, students, faculty, and alumni showed a decisive preference for Midtown High School. Ida. B. Wells came in second and Piedmont third. There were two other names on the survey – Freedom High School and Thomas E. Adger, in honor of the school’s first Black principal.
However, Grant said the survey was merely used to inform the committee’s decision, which leaned toward equity rather than popular vote. Grant acknowledged that the survey had caused confusion with many thinking it was a vote on the name change.
The move to rename Grady and the other schools began in March as communities across the nation re-examined the legacy of racism and white supremacy in the names of its buildings, streets, parks, and monuments. Grady High was named after journalist, orator, and white supremacist Henry W. Grady.
The school board is also considering new names for Brown Middle School and Forrest Hill Academy – both named after notorious Civil War-era white supremacists. A renaming committee has also been empaneled to decide what to rename Grady’s football stadium.