Trude Lamb said at a school board meeting she wanted to change the name of the school to be after "someone who we can all be proud of"

By Rachel DeSantis
June 24, 2020 02:04 PM
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A top athlete at a Texas high school named after Robert E. Lee is helping lead a charge of students who say they will no longer wear the school’s jersey, as they do not want to represent the Confederate general, who held people in slavery.

Trude Lamb is a rising sophomore at Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, and is also an accomplished runner on the school’s cross country team, according to CNN.

Lamb, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana in 2014, appeared before the school board on Monday to read a powerful letter in which she announced her decision to no longer wear her school jersey while competing.

According to CNN, the jerseys read “Tyler Lee,” a reference both to Lee and to the Tyler Independent School District.

“It still reminds me of who he was,” said Lamb, 16, who also took issue with a line in the school’s alma mater that called for students to “raise [their] voice in praise” of his name. “What has he done for him to be praised like that?”

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In her letter to the school board, Lamb reportedly said that while she loves her sport, she feels unable to continue competing and supporting a school named “after a person who was against my people right here in the United States.”

“I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey. I’m currently the fastest girl on your varsity cross country team,” she said. “I don’t see a future of remembering a person who did nothing for our country and who didn’t care for me or my people.”

Lamb added that she was “respectfully” asking the school board to take up the issue of changing the name of the high school so that it was “after someone who we can all be proud of.”

“Using the excuse that it would be too expensive is not okay,” she said. “This town was built on the backs of my enslaved brothers and sisters. Do it in their memory and honor the future of their ancestors that are at REL. I hope you understand where I am coming from.”

Lamb’s efforts have helped inspire a new social media initiative among students called We Won’t Wear the Name, which features photos of student-athletes who have also chosen not to wear jerseys with large Xs drawn over the “Tyler Lee” name.

“Everyone knows what it stands for, and having to wear that and having to say we run for this person is just unreasonable,” one of Lamb’s fellow students told CBS/CW affiliate KYTX.

Hundreds of people gathered outside Monday’s meeting to protest, and many wore shirts that read, “the time is now,” according to CNN.

Wade Washmon, president of the school district’s board of trustees, said in a statement to the Tyler Morning Telegraph that the board was “well aware” of the issues surrounding the names of both Robert E. Lee High School and John Tyler High School, named after the U.S. president who worked to create the Southern Confederacy.

“We have heard from, and anticipate hearing more, from the community on the subject,” Washmon’s statement said. “This time in between school years will hopefully be used to discuss, and find both consensus and meaningful resolution in a unified manner.”

The outlet reported that a name change was not on the agenda at Monday’s meeting, and discussion of items not on the agenda is prohibited by Texas open meeting laws.

The school board previously tabled a motion for a name change in 2018, according to KYTX.

Lamb’s mother Laura Owens, who adopted her from Ghana, told CNN that if the school’s name does not change before the beginning of the next school year, she and other parents are considering a civil rights violation lawsuit.