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Portland high school to be renamed for Black woman

December 15, 2020 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A high school in Southwest Portland will be renamed after one of five history-making Black women chosen as finalists by a committee of students, educators and community members.

The renaming effort began in September after intense pressure from students and alumni amid a mass movement against racial injustice spurred by the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis.

Activists have long called for the renaming of Woodrow Wilson High, in particular, because its namesake instituted segregation in federal government agencies and was an ally of the Ku Klux Klan.

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The school’s renaming committee reached its list of finalists after reviewing nearly 700 surveys.

Wilson is the first of at least two Portland Public Schools to be renamed in the next year. Madison High Principal Adam Skyles in October announced the Northeast Portland school will divorce itself from its namesake by next fall.

The Black women Wilson may be named after include: Harriet Wilson, known as the first Black person to publish a novel in the U.S.; Ida B. Wells, a co-founder of the NAACP and widely recognized for her work as an investigative journalist; Sojourner Truth, who recruited soldiers for the Union during the Civil War and fought for abolition and civil rights; Mercedes Deiz, an Oregonian who was the first Black woman to practice law in the state; and, Beatrice Morrow Cannady, a co-founder and the first vice president of the Portland chapter of the NAACP.