Former Maryland Rep. Albert Wynn said he is in favor of changing the name of James Ryder Randall Elementary School in Prince George’s County to something more representative of the local community.
The school is located in Clinton, which is about 16 miles from Washington, D.C. Randall, for whom the school is named, wrote a poem in 1861 whose lyrics later became the basis for Maryland’s state song-Maryland, My Maryland. The song is considered to be pro-Confederate. Efforts to do away symbolism reflective of the Confederacy and individuals associated with the promotion of slavery have picked up steam since the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last month.
“I think as a general matter schools should be a reflection of their communities and their communities’ leaders-outstanding standing citizens-the geographical perspective…so I think it is definitely appropriate to review names,” Wynn told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Monday.
Wynn, a Democrat, represented the 4th Congressional District from 1993-08. The district is majority African-American and it includes parts of Prince George’s County and Anne Arundel County.
Wynn said it was appropriate that in 1993 the Prince George’s County Board of Education voted to change of the name of Roger B. Taney Middle School in Camp Springs to Thurgood Marshall Middle School. Wynn said changing the name of Ryder Randall Elementary School also would be appropriate.
“Yes, I think it’s appropriate. I think this is certainly the time to re-evaluate some of the names. There’s nothing that says names have to exist in perpetuity unless the people in that community feel it’s appropriate….My bottom line is it is appropriate.”
Prince George’s County Board of Education Chair Alvin Thornton said in an email forwarded to the Baltimore Post-Examiner that the board will review the proposal.
“There is active consideration of the need for changes in the nomenclature of public buildings and spaces, including public schools. The Board of Education is very sensitive to this issue and has recently approved names for schools that are more aligned with the democratic ideals of our nation, state, and county reflecting diversity and pluralism.”
The email was forwarded to the Post-Examiner by Sean Tully. Tully is a strong proponent of abolishing Maryland, My Maryland. The Baltimore City resident has testified before the General Assembly and has written to Maryland newspapers and publications about the issue. The dialogue began after Tully shared with Thornton an email he wrote to the Prince George’s County NAACP in which he requested the organization’s help in persuading the board to rename Ryder Randall Elementary School.
Thornton was active in the effort to rename Taney Middle School. He did not respond to requests by MarylandReporter.com for an interview by the deadline for this story.
Tully relayed to MarylandReporter.com his contention that Ryder Randall’s contribution to Maryland, My Maryland should be considered somewhat limited because he wrote the lyrics as opposed to what became the song. Tully said that that fact and the song’s pro-Confederate lyrics necessitate its removal.
“I’ve read about him. I don’t see that he’s done anything of note that he deserves to have a school named after him where little black children go to school and learn…it’s just offensive.”
Tully said he is not sure what an appropriate name for the school would be.
“That’s up to them. I don’t have a say in that. I’m one for letting the people speak.”
Tully said he favors the removal of Confederate icons and symbols because the secessionists were “traitors.” But Tully said he does not favor the removal of monuments honoring Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, even though both men owned slaves. Tully said both Washington and Jefferson are an indelible part of American history due to their contributions to democracy and freedom.