Star Black Athlete at Robert E. Lee HS Refuses to Wear Name on Jersey

A star athlete said she will no longer compete for her high school in Texas if the school's name remains on athletic jerseys.

Trude Lamb, who currently holds the school's fastest time on the girls' cross country team, wrote a letter to the Tyler Independent School District's Board of Trustees asking that Robert E. Lee High School be renamed "after someone we can all be proud of."

The incoming sophomore immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana in 2014.

In the letter, Lamb condemned the school's ties to Confederate General Robert E. Lee and said while she's enjoyed playing sports at the school and intends to keep her record speed, she will not wear the school's jersey if the general's name remains on uniforms.

"I can't be playing sports, supporting, and going to a school that was named after a person who was against my people right here in the United States. He owned slaves and didn't believe people like me were 100% human let alone ever go to my very high school. I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey," she wrote.

"I don't see a future of remembering a person who did nothing for our country and who didn't care for me or my people. He continues to bring our city down," Lamb added.

Robert E. Lee High School
Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas. Student athletes from the school are refusing to wear the school name on jerseys due to its ties to Confederacy. Sarah A. Miller/Tyler Morning Telegraph

Other student-athletes at the school have joined the push to rename the school by pledging to not wear the school's current name. An Instagram account promoting the slogan "We Won't Wear The Name" surfaced yesterday, featuring images of both current students and alum who have agreed to boycott jerseys with Lee's name.

This is not the first time the school has come under criticism for its decision to keep the name.

Back in 2018, an online movement demanding the renaming of the school was presented to the board. School board member Aaron Martinez introduced a motion for a vote but after no other member seconded the motion, the debate ended.

A petition calling for the board to rename the high school has garnered over 10,000 signatures.

"I believe it is inappropriate to continue to allow a Confederate soldier be the spearhead for an educational establishment where students of different ethnicities attend," the petition reads. "It is perpetuating the notion that black lives are beneath those of white power and it allows racism to flame not only in the school but in our community. Those in power need to know how damaging it is to your African American students."

Organized by a woman named Imani Rivera, the petition called on supporters to show up to the next board meeting.

The district's school board held a board meeting on Monday night and although renaming Robert E. Lee High School was not on the board's agenda, over 75 protestors gathered outside the district building in Tyler, Texas.

Prior to the meeting, Tyler ISD Board President Wade Washmon released a statement acknowledging the public's efforts to change the school's name.

"We as a board are well aware of the issues surrounding the names of both of our flagship high schools. We have heard from, and anticipate hearing more, from the community on the subject. This time in between school years will hopefully be used to discuss, and find both consensus and meaningful resolution in a unified manner," Washmon said.

The second high school in the district, John Tyler High School, is named after the tenth U.S. president, who later served as a captain in the Confederate army and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives a few months before he died. However, Newsweek could find no public call for that school's name to be changed.

"Our thoughts on this matter will be limited to future board meetings where this topic is on the agenda, and of course during our conversations with community members," Washmon's statement continued.

Although some members of the public raised concern during the meeting, the topic of renaming the school was ultimately left off of the agenda for the evening.

Newsweek reached out to the Tyler ISD Board for comment but did not hear back before publication.