Lake View school, renamed to honor Harriet Tubman instead of racist biologist, unveils new sign

Harriet Tubman Elementary had long been named for Swiss American biologist Louis Agassiz before it was changed last year to honor the Underground Railroad activist.

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The new sign at Harriet Tubman Elementary School at 2851 N. Seminary Ave. in Lake View, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The first Chicago school to remove its problematic namesake held a pep rally Monday to unveil its new sign in what officials called the first of many similar ceremonies to come.

The Chicago Public Schools’ Harriet Tubman Elementary in Lake View was long named after racist Swiss American biologist Louis Agassiz.

A group of parents made several unsuccessful pushes to change the name before succeeding last year.

CPS slaveholder school names

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Click here to read Lauren FitzPatrick’s Jan. 3, 2021, report “30 public schools in Chicago named for slaveholders.”
Lauren FitzPatrick’s Jan. 3, 2021, report “30 public schools in Chicago named for slaveholders.”


CPS is allowing other schools to consider changes after a Chicago Sun-Times review in late 2020 found 30 schools are named after slaveholders and more bear the names of avowed racists.

Students at some schools have called for reviews of their buildings’ names, and outgoing CPS chief equity officer Maurice Swinney has said an updated policy for those considering changes could go to the Chicago Board of Education for a vote next week. Those new rules were expected last year but were delayed.

Officials said the change to Harriet Tubman Elementary was “more inclusive and representative of CPS values.”

“The CPS Office of Equity is committed to a comprehensive review process to consider new school names when a school is named after individuals who do not represent the values of our students, families, faculty and support staff,” CPS said.

Tubman was born in the 1800s and was once enslaved before she helped hundreds escape using the Underground Railroad. She’s also considered to be the first African American woman to serve in the military as a nurse for the Union Army.

WHO IS YOUR CPS SCHOOL NAMED FOR?
Use our tool to look up a little of the history behind the namesakes of each public school in Chicago.

Harriet Tubman Elementary School students walk back in to the school after celebrating the new sign change outside the school at 2851 N. Seminary Ave. in Lake View on Monday.

Harriet Tubman Elementary School students walk back in to the school after celebrating the new sign change outside the school at 2851 N. Seminary Ave. in Lake View on Monday.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

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