‘Checkered histories’: Minneapolis renames school named after Thomas Jefferson

Starting this July, Sheridan will be called Las Estrellas, meaning "the stars," and Jefferson will be called Ella Baker, a civil rights activist.

Jefferson Global Studies & Humanities Magnet School/Minneapolis Public Schools

Minneapolis Public Schools approved Tuesday the name change of two schools in the district, a process that began in 2020.

Sheridan Dual Language Elementary and Jefferson Global Studies & Humanities Magnet School will have new names in July after receiving approval from the school board this week, according to a press release from MPS.

The name change process began in October of 2020 when the MPS Facility Names Advisory Committee was created to research facility names and give suggestions for those that should be renamed. Both Sheridan and Jefferson were among the recommendations from the committee.

Sheridan was originally named after Philip Henry Sheridan, a U.S. Army general, while Jefferson was named after Thomas Jefferson, both “figures with checkered histories,” the Star Tribune reported.

Sheridan’s new name will be Las Estrellas, a phrase that means “the stars” in Spanish. The new name was voted on by students from a pool of six names.

Principal Yajaira Guzman Carrero called the name change a “beautiful transition” and said that students “strongly identify” with the star mascot.

Jefferson’s new name will be Ella Baker, who was an African-American civil rights activist. The name came about after students in fourth through eighth grade studied “why we name things (and) what names signify” and then contributed their own recommendations for a new school name.

Bde Maka Ska, which is the new name of Minneapolis’s Lake Calhoun, was a final option, as well as L. Howard Bennet, who was Minnesota’s first black judge. Ultimately, Ella Baker was the number-one choice voted on by students.

Principal Holly Kleppe said that Ella Baker “represents a large majority of our student population.”

“For our students to be able to walk into a building named after someone who looks like them will help encourage them to be their whole selves and strive to be as influential as she was,” Kleppe said, according to a press release.

Name changes like this are nothing new in the Twin Cities area.

Henry Sibley High School in Mendota Heights changed its name to Two Rivers High School, citing its namesake’s failure to “demonstrate good character” in his actions toward the Dakota people. Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis is now called Bde Maka Ska, and Ramsey Middle School in Minneapolis is now named after Justice Alan Page.