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Petition to rename Andrew Jackson Middle School underway due to trail of tears, slavery

Noting Andrew Jackson’s slave-owning past and his role in the Trail of Tears, a group of community members are calling for Andrew Jackson Middle School in Titusville to be renamed.

But on a website created to spearhead the effort, most of the commenters oppose the change. Of 49 comments, only seven support changing the name. Comments against the idea call the push to change the name “another instance of cancel culture” or an attempt to “erase history.”

Two community meetings have been held on the proposal. A third and final community meeting will be held in August before the potential name change appears before the School Board for a final decision.

In a statement on the website, Marcus Hochman, an Oak Park Elementary teacher and resident of Titusville, includes historical writings from the 1820s showing that Andrew Jackson ordered enslaved people whipped for perceived disrespect and attempts to escape the plantation. Jackson owned 100 slaves by the time he became president. 

Jackson also signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which paved the way for the forced relocation of 60,000 Native Americans from 1830 to 1850. Actual numbers for the death toll from the Trail of Tears are heavily disputed; some estimate about 4,000 Cherokee people died due to the long march west, but other historians place the number much lower.

“There is no question that President Andrew Jackson was a slave owner that did horrific things to his slaves and was the author of the Trail of Tears which moved thousands of Native Americans from the south including from Florida to Oklahoma,” Hochman wrote.


Hochman said he has long had doubts about the name of the school.

“How did he get chosen?” Hochman said. “Why is he representing our school, especially when you have African American kids there?”


Brevard County School Board member Matt Susin has requested that the board consider making changes to its building name policy. Under the current policy, any resident can petition the school board to change the name of the school, triggering a prolonged process with three community meetings.

The district is currently working on a draft policy that could allow some sort of gatekeeping process to prevent name change processes moving forward without broad community support. Susin said he would like to see signatures required or similar evidence of support for the proposal.

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Susin said he is not in favor of renaming Andrew Jackson Middle School.

“There’s a lot of things that he did that I don’t agree with,” Susin said. “But at that same time, there’s a lot of things that a lot of presidents have done. So we’ll see how it goes. I’m open to ideas, but I don’t think it should be renamed at this point.”

Hochman said he objects to comments that by retiring the name he’s attempting to erase history.

“Andrew Jackson is still in history books,” Hochman said. “I’m not saying change any of that. I’m saying if excellence is the standard, should his name be a part of that school?”

Talk of Titusville will always be free to access.
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This article first appeared on FloridayToday.com

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