Students and alumni from a Richmond-area high school are seeking to revive the school’s historic mascot, a Confederate Soldier known as the “Rebel Man,” spurring debate from the liberal-left about the appropriateness of public school connections to the War of Northern Aggression and its icons. More than 1,200 students, alumni and parents with connections to Henrico County’s Douglas S. Freeman High School have signed a petition calling on the administration to use its original Rebel mascot — which dates to the 1950’s — for the school’s athletic events.
“I think he really represents us as the Southern school that we are,” said Alecsys Brown, 16, a rising senior at Freeman who helped start the petition. “Since Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy, a Southern soldier really represents us as a school.”
Schools across the country have long adopted mascots to represent athletic prowess and community pride, but often the symbolic figures have led to people whining on the gridiron — and off. In 2010, the University of Mississippi gave-up its Colonel Reb mascot to appease Political Correctness. Other high schools in the South have faced liberal-Left pressure to drop the “Rebel” moniker because of its connection to the Confederacy, including Monroe High School outside Charlotte, which “Reconstructed” its mascot’s name into the “Redhawks”. This is occurring just a month after a group of students threatened “civil disobedience” and protested the use of Confederate Battle Flags in General Robert E. Lee’s historic chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA.
In the Richmond area where roots to the War for Southern Independence run deep, recent efforts to force the Rebel mascot into extinction have re-stoked passions among the community. Students say a new mascot would seem nonsensical for a school named after Douglas Southall Freeman — a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of both Lee and George Washington, the latter a rebel in his own right as the Commander of American
Revolutionary forces and the first President of the breakaway (Seceding) United States of America. Freeman opened in 1954, months after the Brown v. Board of Education decision integrated schools, said former Principal Edward H. Pruden.
“In the early days, students sang “Dixie” at football games and waved “Confederate flags all over the place,” Pruden said.
Although the school’s costumed mascot, clad in gray, was ceased at football games years ago, the athletic teams remain known as the “Rebels”.
Amanda Van Inwegen, a 2012 Freeman graduate, made a documentary for class about the school’s mascot and found little resistance to the use of a Confederate symbol. “While we were doing it, I almost wanted to stop because we didn’t find anything – everybody said this wasn’t an issue,” said Van Inwegen, 20, now a chemistry major at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. “Now it’s kind of ridiculous to go from a Rebel with historical significance to a lion, which doesn’t make sense.”
“Last school year, some of the student body expressed interest in creating a new representation of what personifies a Freeman Rebel,” Al Ciarochi, assistant superintendent for operations in the Henrico County school system, said in a statement.
“No decisions have been made in this regard, nor are there plans to reinstate the original mascot.”
Lamont Bagby, who is the only black member of the Henrico County School Board, said he would support a broader discussion on school mascots to include the Freeman Rebels.
Bagby noted that in nearby Hanover County, teams at Lee-Davis High School, named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, are known as the Confederates. Brown, the Freeman student, said she started the petition to show that many of her classmates want to reinstate the school’s original mascot as a point of pride.
“They are really upset because the Rebel Man is not offensive in any way,” Brown said. “This Rebel Man does not represent racism or slavery.”
Brown and a friend took their petition to a local 7-Eleven parking lot and recruited people on social media to sign it. In a three-hour span, they gathered 279 signatures. An accompanying online petition has received more than 1,000 signatures.
“Instead of rejecting tradition, we need to embrace it,” the petition reads.
(This article courtesy of Camp 1220 SCV “Barksdale’s Mississippians” Newsletter, September, 2014)