The future of Drake: recognize, don’t commemorate


Neve Marin Rue Galmarini

Though Sir Francis Drake is a part of our past we must remember our roots in order to ‘branch out’ as Archie Williams

What is the name of your secondary/high school? 

For any other high school student or graduate, this question is simple. For AWHS students and graduates, however, this question requires more contemplation.

If graduates attended Drake High School and answer “Drake,” they may face scrutiny for mentioning the name of the proclaimed slave trader. If they answer “Archie Williams,” however, they may feel disconnected from this name with which they do not identify. 

Rather than allowing the name “Drake” to serve as a divisive community issue, the name should instead serve as a catalyst for reflection and recognition of history as we transition into our new identity as Archie Williams High School.

Drake High School is history, but the present is pivotal. Although it may be uncomfortable, understanding the atrocities of history will allow us to realize how far we’ve come and how much further we still need to go. However, it all starts with continually speaking the truth about the past.

Over the past decade, many other schools and universities have taken strides to address their racist namesakes and educate their communities. For example, in June 2021, the Duval County public school district in Florida voted to change the names of all six Confederate-named schools.

However, the concept of changing a school name with racist roots is relatively new. According to Forbes Magazine, within a span of three months after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020, nearly 20 percent of US schools with Confederate-affiliated names had initiated or considered renaming processes. It took hundreds of years for change to begin.

Drake High School is history, but the present is pivotal.

AWHS is among the first schools across the nation to undergo a major name change process. So, we must set the precedent.

The removal of statues, names of schools, and other symbols of racist historical figures is a necessary step towards a more just future. We’ve realized that Sir Francis Drake’s racist past does not represent the values of our community today. But rather than moving on entirely from the conversation of Drake, we need to continue bringing it up and learning from it. Future generations of Falcons need to understand not just what happened when their school’s name changed, but why it happened. 

This recognition of history could take place through the establishment of information centers, signs, or other forms of education about Drake on the AWHS campus. This way, people will learn about Drake in the past tense, as a symbol of both revolution and change within our community. 

Alums shouldn’t be ashamed to have been the “Pirates,” but instead should be proud of the evolution of their community in recognition of Drake’s past. So, as we set the tone for the future of AWHS, let’s make sure that it includes the conversation of the history that caused the change.