GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Some students at Wade Hampton High School want to rename the school because they say Wade Hampton was oppressive to minorities and the current name is honoring a bigot. However, other students want the name to be left alone.
Wade Hampton junior, Asha Marie transferred to the school last year to attend the Fine Arts program. She said she recently started researching the man who her school was named after and didn’t like what she learned.
“He was a confederate war general, and I found out he supported the KKK, and he was one of the largest slave owners,” Asha Marie said.
She attended an extra-curricular meeting where she was asked if she could change something about her community, what would it be. She responded that the name of their school made her uncomfortable as a minority student. And, her peers decided that was something they could work on together.
Asha Marie created a petition to change the school’s name to gage community interest. Her petition has nearly 1,400 signatures on it.
She says she still experiences discrimination at the high school and says she’s gotten a lot of support, but not everybody is on board.
A counter petition was created that has garnered around 1,900 signatures.
Wade Hampton High School graduate, Josh Cantrell wrote on the petition, “Financially the school would need funds to change both the school signs, mascot, be completely repainted, among many other expenses. We all know that our educational system is already not funded enough as-is. Additionally, this would also cause repercussions as far as Wade Hampton Boulevard only a moment away. Next we’ll have to change its name and this could have a domino effect to other places and road names that are also “offensive” to those that are absolutely, ridiculously more sensitive than a normal person should be. Also, be cognitive of the potential tax increases from enabling such for the sake of appeasing the few that would have an agenda to rewrite our history or simply make that history disappear.”
Despite the opposition, Asha Marie says they’re still pressing forward.
“I’m not discouraged at all seeing the counter petition,” Asha Marie said. “I’m not surprised by it. We live in the South. The confederate flag flew on the state house for 150 years after the Civil War.”
Asha Marie said she and some friends had the idea to rename the high school after former Greenville mayor, Max Heller, who she said made the city more inclusive.
“He basically just built Greenville up, so we wanted someone who had that effect on Greenville,” Asha Marie said. “We didn’t want someone like Wade Hampton whose legacy is riddled with hate and racism, we wanted someone who supported everyone, who fought for everyone.”
Greenville County Schools District released the below statement:
“This petition appears to have been initiated by a student, but has not yet been presented to the GCS Administration or Board of Trustees. Though the Board of Trustees is responsible for naming school facilities, State Statute forbids the removal of a historic figure’s name from a public structure without a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly.”
The petitioners say they still plan to go before the school board in the near future. They say their next steps are writing their lawmakers and continuing to campaign on social media.