The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Virginia’s first integrated public school deserves a more appropriate name

The Stratford Junior High School building in Arlington in 2015.
The Stratford Junior High School building in Arlington in 2015. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Regarding Petula Dvorak’s Dec. 4 Metro column, “New school name tests Va.’s loyalty to Gen. Lee”:

When four African American students entered Arlington’s Stratford Junior High School on Feb. 2, 1959, I was one of the first two teachers to receive those students. Ronnie Deskins and Lance Newman entered my first-period mathematics class. The other two — a boy and a girl — entered another teacher’s general-education (English, social studies) class. On an evening in 2004, associated with WETA’s production of “Arlington: History, Heroes, and Hamburgers,” I talked with Peggy Deskins (Ronnie’s mother) about the challenges and courage associated with Stratford’s integration. I was amazed at her modesty. 

In February 2014, the H-B Woodlawn Program at Stratford held a program at which a panel of us reflected on Stratford’s integration. Mr. Deskins, Mr. Newman and I were among the panelists. We shared what we believe were poignant aspects of that integration. We all have referred to Stratford’s integration — a term used as newspapers and TV stations covered the story.  

While history’s recording of the activity doesn’t necessarily imply that the building continue to be called “Stratford,” many people — African American and white — played significant roles: parents, students (four on this first occasion), general citizens, a school board and school staff. It would be a disservice to many to name the school for any one person. If the building must be renamed, perhaps Integration Middle School might be the most appropriate.

Herbert W. Ware, Ashburn