Warrant Article 23

The Edward Devotion House, Brookline MA

The Edward Devotion House, Brookline MA

Annual Town Meeting Article 23

May 22, 2018

VOTED: That the Town hereby requests that the School Committee propose a new name for the Edward Devotion School after receiving public input through a process to be determined by the School Committee, and hereby requests the Naming Committee to consider the name so selected by the School Committee and make a recommendation to Town Meeting with respect thereto at the 2019 Annual Town Meeting. In the interim, the name of the School shall be the Coolidge Corner School.

Reasons for renaming the Coolidge Corner School

Massachusetts was the first colony in New England where people were enslaved.  It was also the epicenter of the U.S.’ slave trade through the 17thand 18th centuries. One might argue reasonably that the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers began slavery in what is now the continental US for the purpose making creating wealth for their own self enrichment. While slavery was litigated and found to be illegal, no legislation was passed that abolished slavery until the end of the Civil War and ratification of the 13th amendment in 1865.  Parts of this legacy continue.  

We seek to introduce a robust discussion about public spaces that carry the names of those involved in enslaving humans.  

As part of the work done by the Town to address how to name spaces, it produced naming criteria. 

In May 2005, Town Meeting approved the following naming criteria.  They are:  

1.  a person/organization of excellent reputation and character who/which has set an example of outstanding citizenship and/or has made an exemplary contribution of time, service, or resources to or on behalf of the community

2.  a national noteworthy public figure or official; 3. an event of historical or cultural significance

4. significant donation or bequest, establishment of a trust, or other similar action.

Guidelines for School Committee review are as follows:

1. the persons or groups associates with the recognition reflect values consistent with the core values of the system

2. the administration and execution of any contribution is commensurate with the resources provided by the donation

3. the item is in appropriate proportion to other award and recognitions

4. prior awards and recognitions remain true to the spirit with which they were generated

5. recognition of corporate sponsorship is restrained and distinguishable from advertising or other commercial purpose. 

Selection of a new school name should consider the likely advancement of restorative justice as a result of choosing to rename the school after a leader who overcame the very injustices that Edward Devotion and others endorsed directly and indirectly. Brookline residents, especially its people of color and even women would benefit from renaming the school after a person or group connected with those enslaved. The perpetrators also may benefit from reaching such a resolution. It puts the Town in the position of taking responsibility for its legacy of enslavement in a very concrete manner.  It opens the way for further exploring restorative justice in other racist, sexist, homo and tras phobic situations. Further, the naming may prevent future acts of bigotry and oppression in Brookline, to understand the harm they have caused, to give them an opportunity to redeem themselves and to discourage them from causing further harm. For victims, its goal is to give them an active role in the naming process.