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Jackson Public Schools Celebrates Black History Month

February 5, 2019

Celebrate Black History

In observance of Black History Month, Jackson Public Schools would like to share a brief history of the notable African-American namesakes of several of our schools. In 2018, we renamed one of our schools after former U.S. President Barack Obama. In 2010, we opened three new schools, each named after Mississippians who have left an indelible legacy within our region. Lanier High School and Rowan (formerly a middle school) are two of the oldest buildings in our District named after African-American men.

Namesakes are presented in alphabetical order by last name.

Bates Elementary - Gladys Noel Bates Cardozo Middle School - Thomas Cardozo
Gladys Noel Bates Elementary Cardozo Middle School

Gladys Noel Bates Elementary

Gladys Noel Bates was born in 1920 in McComb, Mississippi. She was a civil rights pioneer and educator who filed a lawsuit, Gladys Noel Bates vs. the State of Mississippi, in 1948. Though the case sought salary equality for African-American teachers and principals, it was also a forerunner for school desegregation cases of the 1950s. Bates moved to Denver, Colorado, where she received numerous awards for her achievements as an educator and a community leader. She was the only living namesake of a JPS school when Bates Elementary opened on September 14, 2010. She died one month later on October 15.

Thomas W. Cardozo Middle

Thomas W. Cardozo was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1838, to a freeborn African American and a Jewish journalist. After he was married, he moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he became involved in building up the education, economics, and political power of African Americans in Mississippi. He was the first African American to serve as superintendent of education for the state of Mississippi. As state superintendent, he was interested in the education of all children even though the public schools were segregated. The statewide adoption of uniform textbooks was a reform that he supported. At the end of his tenure as superintendent, he moved to Massachusetts where he died in 1881.

Kirksey Middle School - Henry J. Kirksey Lanier High School – William H. Lanier
Henry J. Kirksey Middle School William Henry Lanier High School

Henry J. Kirksey Middle

Henry J. Kirksey, born in Lee County, Mississippi, in 1915, is the namesake for Kirksey Middle School. The election of more than 600 African Americans to public office in the state can be credited in part to Kirksey's service as a plaintiff, expert witness and community organizer. Kirksey was the primary plaintiff to bring Mississippi in compliance with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. A planning consultant and outspoken activist for civil rights, he challenged the countywide election of state legislators. His lawsuit led to the adoption of single-member legislative districts in 1979. Also in 1979, he became one of the first African-American men elected to the Mississippi Senate after the Reconstruction Era. He served two consecutive four-year terms. Kirksey died at the age of 90 on December 9, 2005.

William Henry Lanier High

William Henry Lanier was born a slave in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1851. He attended Tougaloo College, Oberlin College and Fisk University and received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Roger Williams University. For six years, he was president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College, which we now know as Alcorn State University. He taught in Forest, Winona, Black Hawk, Carrollton, Yazoo City and Jackson. He served as principal of the Smith Robertson School in Jackson from 1912 until the year he died in 1929.

Obama Elementary School - Barack Obama Rowan School - Levi John Rowan
Barack H. Obama Elementary School Levi John Rowan Middle School

Barack H. Obama Elementary

A native of Hawaii, Barack Obama attended Columbia University in New York and graduated with a political science degree in 1983. He was elected to the Illinois Senate and served from 1997-2004. Later, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served from 2005-2006. In 2009, Obama became the 44th President of the United States and the first African American elected to that office. In the first year of his presidency, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." He served as the U.S. president for two terms.

Levi John Rowan Middle

Levi John Rowan was born in 1871. A native of Rodney, Mississippi, he later graduated from Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College. He taught for five years in the public schools near his hometown before being selected as an English teacher at Alcorn. Later, in 1905, he became president of the college and remained in that capacity until 1911. For the following four years, he served as an English professor at his alma mater. From 1915 until his death in 1934, he served his second term as president of the college.

More information on our School Namesakes page.