Group petitions to change name of 2 Clifton middle schools over allegations of racism

A new group in Clifton is calling for two middle schools named after Christopher Columbus and former New Jersey governor and President Woodrow Wilson to have a name change due to allegations of racism.

News 12 Staff

Jun 17, 2020, 2:40 AM

Updated 1,401 days ago

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With protests over the death of George Floyd continuing, the conversation is also turning to controversial historic figures often associated with racism and racial divide.
A new group in Clifton is calling for two middle schools named after Christopher Columbus and former New Jersey governor and President Woodrow Wilson to have a name change due to allegations of racism.
“When the protests started around two weeks ago, it seemed like there was a big catalyst going on where people wanted change,” says 2017 Clifton High School graduate Angelica Rosario. “My first intention was to create the conversation about it. I wanted people to talk about it and open their eyes and realize, ‘Why those names?’”
Rosario started an online petition to change the names of the schools. Columbus has long been controversial for his treatment of indigenous people. Wilson has also been accused of racism.
“Woodrow Wilson – a lot of people are very unaware of his history. He was notoriously known for being extremely racist. He supported segregation,” Rosario says.
Rosario and other Clifton grads formed a group called Clifton Waves. Changing the names of the schools is on the top of their agenda. But, now inspired by the recent protests, they want to do more.
Photos: Protests Across New Jersey
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“One of our main goals is to get more people of color involved in city council, board of ed, even just when it comes down to the teachers,” she says. “We’re trying to push people our age to start voting, to get out there and make them realize their voices are heard and their voices matter.”
The group plans to discuss the name changes at a virtual board of ed meeting later this week. They are suggesting changing Columbus Middle School to Lenape Middle School – named after one of the local New Jersey Native American tribes. Rosario is also suggesting the school named for Wilson to be named after Ida Wells – an early civil rights activist.
The Clifton Board of Education has not commented on the petition.
West Orange and Camden have recently taken down Columbus statues. There is a petition in Parsippany to do the same.


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