What's in a name? Everything. Julianne Moore and "American Beauty" producer Bruce Cohen are hoping to strip their Virginia high school of its confederate name and replace it with the name of a Supreme Court Judge and civil rights leader.
The duo is joining a cause that began last June after a group of students and alumni at J.E.B Stuart High School began campaigning to change the school's name following the reprehensible shootings of nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The incident ignited a discussion that questions whether symbols and names related to Civil War Confederacy should continue to be honored.
Now, the two Hollywood heavyweights have officially joined the fight, starting a new Change.org petition drawing attention to the name change debate. Their petition has garnered more than 25,000 signatures supporting the cause.
In their letter, Julianne and Bruce, who attended Stuart in the '70s and have been friends since the 8th grade, said the school was founded and named in 1959 to protest the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling that ended the segregation of public schools.
"Today, this school is attended by a diverse group of students who should not have to attend a school that bears the name of a man who fought to keep African Americans enslaved," they wrote in the petition. "So we're calling on the Fairfax County School Board to rename it Thurgood Marshall High School. Not only was Marshall the first African American Supreme Court Justice and a civil rights leader, he was our neighbor and a member of our community."
When the Oscar winners were students at Stuart, they said the school symbol was the Confederate General riding a horse while waving the Confederate flag. The school gymnasium also celebrated the flag, they said, although images of "Old Dixie" were removed in 2001. Still, images of the General remain.
"No one should have to apologize for the name of the public high school you attended and the history of racism it represents, as we and so many alumni of Stuart have felt the need to do our whole lives," they said.
"These symbols of hate continue to fuel racism and violence," the former students wrote, saying that it is inappropriate for "institutions of learning" to bear these Civil War reminders.
In a statement to the Washington Post, Julianne said, "We name our buildings, monuments, and parks after exalted and heroic individuals as a way to honor them, and inspire ourselves to do better and reach for more in our own lives. It is reprehensible to me that in this day and age a school should carry and celebrate the name of a person who fought for the enslavement of other human beings. I think the students of this school deserve better than that moniker."