CPS school to remove Andrew Jackson, former president and slaveholder, from its name

The Near West Side school becomes the first of what the Sun-Times found were 30 Chicago Public Schools buildings named for a slaveholder to be renamed.

SHARE CPS school to remove Andrew Jackson, former president and slaveholder, from its name

Andrew Jackson Language Academy, 1340 W. Harrison St., is changing its name to Chicago World Language Academy.

Sun-Times staff

A Near West Side elementary school will remove Andrew Jackson, the former president who enslaved hundreds of people and advocated for “Indian removal,” as its namesake, making it the first of 30 Chicago Public Schools buildings named after a slaveholder to do so.

Andrew Jackson Language Academy, an elementary school with about 500 students, will be renamed the Chicago World Language Academy, according to a school board meeting agenda released Monday.

AJLA’s Local School Council held eight meetings between August and April to hear from people and discuss a potential change before voting 12-0 to rename the school.

The Chicago Board of Education plans to finalize the change at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

Maurice Swinney, CPS’ equity chief, said in a statement that the district is “proud that the school community and leadership at Andrew Jackson Language Academy have taken the important step of deciding to change the name of their school to be more inclusive and representative of CPS values.”

Swinney’s office is leading discussions about name changes at several schools. 

AJLA was one of 30 in Chicago named for slaveholders, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of the name of every CPS school found. Dozens more are named after other racists, and CPS officials promised changes, saying they were surprised by the Sun-Times’ findings.

Jackson was an Army general and then president from 1829 to 1837 who was known for his anti-Native American policies, including the displacement of tribes so that white settlers could take their land for cotton plantations on which Black people were enslaved. At the time of his death, Jackson enslaved about 150 people.

For years, there’s been talk of taking Jackson off of $20 bills and replacing him with Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist and civil rights activist.

In March, another CPS school’s name was changed to honor Tubman. Agassiz Elementary School in Lake View — named for Louis Agassiz, a Swiss American biologist who promoted racist ideologies — was renamed Harriet Tubman IB World School after years of protests from families of kids attending the school.

The school’s former namesake believed in eugenics, the idea that some characteristics and races are inferior to others and should be bred out of humanity.

The school was the first to see its name changed as part of a CPS citywide review of school names.

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