Zach Snyder, the Resident Director of Edwards Hall, created a petition that would later spark the push to rename several schools named after Confederate leaders in Abilene.
“I started a petition and posted it on Facebook and went to bed fully expecting it to be ignored,” Snyder said. “I woke up to it being a top story in the local news and having hundreds of signatures already.”
More than 240 schools across the U.S. are named in honor of Confederate leaders, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. Four of those schools resided in Abilene.
“The Abilene Independent School District recognizes the conversation regarding the re-naming of schools is of great significance not just in Abilene, but across the country,” Abilene ISD said in a statement. “The need for this important discussion comes at the same time many other meaningful conversations regarding race in our schools and communities are beginning to take place.”
Despite the petition catching attention in June, Snyder said some people were less than happy with his efforts.
“I got a couple of angry phone calls from people in the community I’ve known for a long time, and I have a lot of love and respect for,” Snyder said. “They were very angry with me.”
He said that the petition was meant to convey that these schools were named for a specific reason in a time of integration debate in Abilene.
“The reality is the people who named those schools were in charge back in the 50s and 60s,” Snyder said. “When Abilene was fighting integration in our schools here, we built new schools and named them after Confederate leaders as a message that ‘this is not a place for you’ for members of the community who were not white.”
When the story caught attention, Snyder said he served a minor role in spreading updates and information.
“Beyond that point, I can’t take any credit,” Snyder said. “I did some coordinating with some local people, and they put together a news conference and organized people for the school meeting to address that topic.”
Months after the petition was published, the Abilene Independent School District Board of Trustees chose new names for three elementary schools Jan. 14 with the fourth receiving a new name at a later date.
“In a time when so much can be perceived as being divisive in our community and nation, it’s great to see our community support voices that speak up and want to see change happen,” Snyder said. “It feels great to know that I served a small part to make that happen.”