Amid growing national pushback against Confederate symbols, actress Julianne Moore and producer Bruce Cohen started a petition to change the name of their former high school, which is named after a Confederate general. The petition, posted to Change.org, garnered nearly 29,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.
The school opened in 1959, five years after the Supreme Court mandated the desegregation of public schools. The name -- honoring Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart -- was largely seen as a shot at that decision, the Washington Post reported. Moore and Cohen, former classmates, want the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School to be changed to honor civil rights leader and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Moore is an Oscar-winning actress who starred in movies such as "Still Alice" and "Boogie Nights," while Cohen is an Oscar-winning producer who worked on movies like "American Beauty" and "Silver Linings Playbook." Moore attended the school from 1975-1977, while Cohen graduated from J.E.B. Stuart High School in 1979.
“We name our buildings, monuments and parks after exalted and heroic individuals as a way to honor them and inspire ourselves to do better and reach for more in our own lives,” Moore said in a statement to the Washington Post. “It is reprehensible to me that in this day and age a school should carry and celebrate the name of a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings. I think the students of this school deserve better than that moniker.”
Stuart High School, located about a 30-minute drive from Washington, D.C., has one of the most racially diverse student bodies in its county, with 49 percent of students being Hispanic, 24 percent white, 12 percent Asian and 11 percent black, reported the Washington Post.
"Today, this school is attended by a diverse group of students who should not have to attend a school that bears the name of a man who fought to keep African-Americans enslaved," reads the petition from Moore and Cohen.
The petition also references the racially motivated killing of nine African-American worshippers at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Images of the alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, later emerged showing him posing with the Confederate flag. Lawmakers in South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its statehouse grounds and a national debate concerning symbols from the Confederacy has continued in the wake of the shooting.
Schools have considered steps to take in banning Confederate imagery, including the public school district in Charleston, which recently banned students from wearing clothing featuring the flag.