Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Lake View, renamed to honor Underground Railroad activist instead of racist biologist Louis Agassiz, unveils new sign


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

Chicago Public Schools Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Lake View has long been named after racist Swiss American biologist Louis Agassiz.

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

The CPS is allowing other schools to consider changes after a late 2020 Chicago Sun-Times review found that 30 schools were named after slave owners and others were named after outspoken racists.

Students at some schools have called for a review of their building names, and outgoing CPS director Maurice Swinney said an updated policy for those considering changes could be put to a vote by the Chicago Board of Education. next week. These new rules were expected last year but have been delayed.

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

“The CPS Office of Equity has engaged in 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, teachers and support staff,” the CPS said.

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


Use our tool to research some of the history behind the namesakes of each Chicago public school.

Students from Harriet Tubman Elementary School return to 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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