The Wilson High School Renaming Committee has recommended renaming the Southwest Portland high school for Black civil rights activist and journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
The committee submitted its proposal Jan. 15 to Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. He accepted the request on the same day, and the committee now awaits a Jan. 26 vote by the Portland Public Schools board.
Wells-Barnett was an investigative journalist, racial justice activist and educator who was born during the Civil War and argued education could lead to a more equitable society. "Wells-Barnett is an American hero. Ida B. Wells-Barnett will foster a lasting message of determination, valor and tolerance among all students and staff," the proposal says.
Guerrero enthusiastically accepted the request.
"I am thrilled with your selection," he wrote. "Ida B Wells-Barnett: journalist, activist, mother of four, tireless and fearless champion of racial equity and social justice. It is long overdue that a notable person fitting this description grace the portals of one of our cherished Portland high schools. Your community has my deep gratitude for conducting this process with integrity, and with careful thought as to the identity and values of your school community that you want to convey to current and future generations of students."
Students launched an effort to rename Woodrow Wilson High School in 2019, saying their school shouldn't honor a U.S. president who "embraced racism, hate and injustice." (Among other things, Wilson was openly sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan.)
The Portland School Board will make the final vote Jan. 26 during its regular meeting following a presentation by the renaming committee. Board Chair Julia Brim-Edwards has already expressed her enthusiasm for the new name.