San Francisco Committee Changed School Names Based on Wikipedia and Wild Accusations

San Francisco Black Lives Matter protest
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The San Francisco Board of Education voted to rename 44 of the city’s schools, claiming that prominent figures from American history, such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Paul Revere, were tied to racist incidents. The committee based their decisions on Wikipedia and other wildly inaccurate information to source its claims.

Committee chairman Jeremiah Jeffries, along with his fellow committee members, used Wikipedia to support their claims that prominent U.S. historical figures had ties to racist incidents, and therefore warranted the renaming of scores of San Francisco schools, according to a report by Mission Local.

A Google Doc showcasing the committee’s notes attempting to justify their reasons for voting to rename the schools revealed some of the bizarre details behind their decision-making process.

The committee, for example, voted to rename Lowell High School — named after American poet James Russell Lowell according to Mission Local — despite the fact that Lowell was an abolitionist, because committee member noted that according to Wikipedia, “he did not want black people to vote.”

“Lowell was an abolitionist, but his opinions wavered concerning African-Americans,” states the note regarding Lowell High School. “He advocated suffrage for blacks, yet he noted that their ability to vote could be troublesome.”

According to a scholarly biography of the high school’s namesake, however, Lowell “unequivocally advocated giving the ballot to the recently freed slaves,” notes Mission Local. Other commenters claim the school might not have been named after the poet at all, but rather after the town of Lowell, Massachusetts. The committee changed its name regardless.

Another note justifying the renaming of K-8 school honoring Paul Revere cited an article on the History Channel website, which stated that Revere was court-martialed for alleged cowardice and insubordination following the disastrous “Penobscot Expedition” against the British in 1779.

Committee members decided that Revere’s military activities were somehow tied to “the conquest of the Penobscot Indians.”

“Paul Revere served as commander of land artillery in the disastrous Penobscot Expedition of 1779, this is directly connected to the colonization of the Penobscot,” the note reads.

Mission Local reported that “this is a telephone game-like invention of fact, and never happened.”

A third note, filled with typos, explains why Dianne Feinstein Elementary School should be renamed.

The note claimed that the senator from California is “responsible for the eviction of a whole Pilipino neighboorhood[sic], and the police brutaility[sic], allowed police dogs to atack[sic] filipino[sic] veteran elders.”

“She repeatly[sic] protected and flew the confederate flag in front of sf city hall,” the note continued. “Even though this flag was hung before her when a Black activist, Richard Bradley took it down, she called for his prosecution, and put the confederate flag back up instead of leaving it down.”

“Dianne Feinstein was also agian[sic] same sex partnership and advocated agianst[sic] same sex partnership/marriage,” the note added. “Feinstein’s veto of domestic partnership law is recorded.” As Alex Griswold notes, on Twitter, the events in question happened before Feinstein became mayor.

A lengthy note about Abraham Lincoln calls out the former U.S. president for executing 38 Native Americans, among other things.

“Abraham Lincoln is not seen as much of a hero at all among many American Indian Nations and Native peoples of the United States, as the majority of his policies proved to be detrimental to them,” the note reads.

The note continues:

For instance, the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 helped precipitate the construction of the transcontinental railroad, which led to the significant loss of land and natural resources, as well as the loss of lifestyle and culture, for many Indigneous[sic] peoples. In addition, rampant corruption in the Indian Office, the precursor of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, continued unabated throughout Lincoln’s term and well beyond. In many cases, government-appointed Indian agents outright stole resources that were supposed to go to the tribes. In other cases, the Lincoln administration simply continued to implement discriminatory and damaging policies, like placing Indians on reservations. Beginning in 1863, the Lincoln administration oversaw the removal of the Dine’ Nation (Navajo) and the Mescalero Apaches from the New Mexico Territory, forcing the Dine’ to march the “Long Walk” of 450 miles to Bosque Redondo—a brutal journey.

“Eventually, more than 2,000 died before a treaty was signed,” the note added. “Also responsible for the Dakota 38+2, largest mass hanging in US history.”

Another note about George Washington simply read, “Slaveowner, colonizer.”

In another example, businessman James Lick was also deemed “racist” after committee members appeared to misread an article, resulting in them alleging that Lick had funded a statue showing a Native American individual lying at the feet of white men.

“Nobody appears to have closely read that article, however, which clearly notes that Lick underwrote the sculpture ‘posthumously,’ via his estate. He died 18 years prior to its completion,” reported Mission Local.

Historians are now blasting the committee for its decision-making process, which Mission Local describes as “an insular process, beset by ignorance and incompetence.”

“The decision not to include historians in the process seems misguided — and assumes a political agenda that is not necessarily fair,” University of Richmond professor Nicole Maurantonio told Mission Local.

“To ignore historians suggests that the actors involved are intent on privileging a version of the past that might fit a particular set of interests that might or might not align with history,” the professor added.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.

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