Vance High School could bear name of civil rights attorney Julius Chambers

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board will vote Tuesday on a new name for Zebulon B. Vance High School in University City as part of district-wide review.
Vance-High-School-marquee

Community members will learn Tuesday if Vance High School will be renamed after late civil rights attorney Julius Chambers.

This summer, CMS Superintendent Earnest Winston announced a full review of school names across the district, including the renaming process for those that “many in our community say glorify a racist, hateful and painful past.” Zebulon B. Vance High School in northeast Charlotte is the first school to go through the process. 

Vance was a Confederate soldier who served as North Carolina governor and senator in the 1800s. He also owned enslaved people and “spoke out against and fought anti-discrimination laws and other protections for racial minorities,” Winston said during the June 24 school board meeting.

He added, “We know changing the school’s name is largely symbolic, but it is an important step in the right direction.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools previously gathered feedback for the top three names under consideration: Julius L. Chambers High School, Queen City High School and University City High School.

Julius Chambers’ impact on education

Following three public meetings, a September survey allowed students and community members to weigh in on three name choices voted by the School Name Advisory Committee.

The district received 1,195 responses from community members, according to a CMS spokesperson, with the majority in favor of renaming the school after Julius Chambers. A majority of the 476 student respondents preferred University City High School.

Julius Chambers mural by artist Scott Nurkin in Chambers’ hometown of Mount Gilead, North Carolina. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Local historian J. Michael Moore calls Chambers, who died in 2013, one of the nation’s most important and effective civil rights advocates in the last 70 years. Some of his most important work was in the field of education.

Chambers argued court cases that helped shape civil rights law, including the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education case that established school busing programs to help desegregate public schools.

“His tireless work and leadership educated the public about the role of public policy in the creation of segregated schools,” Moore told QCity Metro in June. “His work helped to make Charlotte-Mecklenburg the most successfully desegregated urban school system in the nation.”

He also served as chancellor of his alma mater, North Carolina Central University, from 1993 to 2001.

CMS leaders will present their final recommendation for a vote during Tuesday’s board meeting at 6 p.m.

School officials anticipate the new name and all related branding, including sports uniforms, will be in place for the 2021-22 school year, according to the school’s renaming website.

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Katrina Louis
Katrina covers Charlotte's Black business scene for QCity Metro. She's a Miami transplant, pescatarian and lover of the arts. She earned a public relations degree from the University of Florida. Got a news tip? Email her at katrinalouis@qcitymetro.com.

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