Celtics' Jaylen Brown joins campaign to remove Confederate general's name from his old high school

Jack Baer
·Writer
·3 min read

Jaylen Brown is one of the most politically outspoken athletes in the NBA, and now he’s turning his attention to his alma mater.

The Boston Celtics wing tweeted a public endorsement of the campaign to change the name of Wheeler High School in Marietta, Georgia, where he won a state championship before continuing his career at Cal.

The Wheeler name comes from Joseph Wheeler, a Confederate general who hailed from Georgia and led cavalry for the South in the Civil War, but later went on to serve in the U.S. Army and Congress.

Brown followed up the tweet by urging his followers to retweet the link for exposure.

The involvement of a major NBA player is the latest twist in an extended saga around Wheeler High School, one of many campaigns to remove Confederate names and imagery in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown (7) dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA game against the Washington Wizards.
Jaylen Brown wants his old high school's name changed. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

A committee had been previously formed by the Cobb County School Board to review the names of Wheeler High School and Walton High School, the latter named after a slave owner who signed the Declaration of Independence. However, the Board voted again in November to disband the committee before it had even held a meeting.

The vote to disband the committee was reportedly split across party and racial lines, with every vote in favor coming from a white Republican and against from a Black Democrat. Board chair Brad Wheeler was reportedly responsible for the reversal, having previously voted to form the committee. Wheeler reportedly claimed the decision to change the name should come from the Board itself, though no meeting to address the issue is currently scheduled.

Wheeler High School, where the plurality of students are Black, opened in 1965, at a time when schools across the South were being named after Confederate figures as a backlash against the Civil Rights movement.

From the Equal Justice Initiative:

Historically, the practice of naming schools to honor the architects and defenders of slavery has been part of a broader effort to maintain racial hierarchy in the U.S. In particular, many schools were given Confederate-themed names in the 1950s and 1960s as Southern states mounted what they termed “Massive Resistance,” a coordinated effort by governors, legislators, and other white leaders to resist the racial integration of public schools. As federal law increasingly required school desegregation, white communities built new schools — schools that were either explicitly or implicitly intended for white children only — and named those schools after white Southerners who were notorious racists.

This isn’t the only place where Wheeler’s legacy is seen in the modern United States. A statue of the man can still be found in Congress, Georgia’s Wheeler County is named after him and several locations in Alabama, which he represented in Congress, can also be found with his name.

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