Proposed school name change drops Ramsey, honors Alan Page

A newly painted mural at Ramsey Middle School reads, 'Rename Ramsey.'
A recently painted mural in the halls of Ramsey Middle School reads, "Rename Ramsey" after students and teachers are campaigning to change the name of their school.
George Dornbach | MPR News

The Minneapolis school board plans to vote Tuesday evening on whether to change the name of Alexander Ramsey Middle School to Justice Page Middle School.

A renaming campaign led by Ramsey students has included an online survey and community and student meetings throughout the year. A majority of survey respondents favored renaming.

As Minnesota's first territorial governor, Alexander Ramsey negotiated treaties for cession of Dakota land for white settlement. Ramsey infamously called for Native people to be driven from the state during the U.S.-Dakota war.

"I just really want everybody to feel safe in Ramsey," said sixth-grader A.J. Gayetay. "Who would want the school that you're going to to be named after a man who did that to your own culture?"

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Alexander Ramsey's name is emblazoned on the top of the school.
Alexander Ramsey's name is emblazoned in gold letters on the top of Ramsey Middle School's main building.
George Dornbach | MPR News

The proposed new name honors Alan Page, Minnesota's first African-American Supreme Court justice and a former player for the Minnesota Vikings.

"That just shows to all the students that you can be a very talented sports player but also have an education. You don't choose one or the other," seventh-grader Dom Navarre said.

Minneapolis Schools Superintendent Ed Graff and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton have both expressed support for the name change.

But survey responses included some objections. Some respondents worried that a name change would erase school and community history. Others said the money spent on renaming would be better used in classrooms.

Paul Sommers, Minn. studies teacher and Toussaint Morrison, artist
Paul Sommers, a sixth grade Minnesota studies teacher and Toussaint Morrison, the school's artist in residence, are helping educate students on the history behind their school's name.
George Dornbach | MPR News

Leaders of the renaming effort say they've raised enough money to replace most school signage.

But Ramsey sixth-grade social studies teacher Paul Sommers said he supports plans to maintain at least one reminder of the school's past — metal letters emblazoned on the front of the building that read "Alexander Ramsey Junior High School."

"That forces us to keep the story alive," Sommers said. "It forces us to say, 'What's he doing here, and why is this, and what's our history?'"