Middletown votes to rename new middle school to honor Black history in state


MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — A virtual public hearing is in session Monday night in Middletown centered around the naming of a new middle school.

Just after 8:30 p.m., the Common Council passed a vote 11-0 (with one member abstaining) to rename the school after the Beman Family, – who were prominent Black abolitionists in the state – changing from the original name, after former President Woodrow Wilson.

Some alumni are pressuring the council to keep that name. But supporters of calling it “Beman Middle School” say the city should honor the family’s legacy and history instead of Wilson’s racist beliefs and policies.

“Now is the time to right some wrongs,” said council member Jeanette Blackwell Monday. “History cannot be rewritten; it is what it is. But we can move toward the moral way in acknowledging the contributions of this family and give them a rightful place of honor and sustenance by naming this school after the Bemans.”

The Council says the Beman’s contributions both in religious leadership and anti-slavery efforts to the City of Middletown began some 185 years ago:

Research showed that the Beman Family was an extraordinary African-American family, who had taken on key roles both as religious leaders and as abolitionists.

Among the most active family members were: Rev. Jehiel Beman, his son and daughter-in-law, Leverett and Clarissa Beman, and his son Rev. Amos Beman. Rev. Jehiel Beman was pastor of the Cross Street African Methodist Episcopal Church, a co-founder of the Middletown Anti-Slavery Society, and a conductor on this city’s leg of the Underground Railroad.

Clarissa Beman founded the Middletown Colored Female Anti-Slavery Society, the second such organization in the nation. Rev. Amos Beman, also a prominent minister in his own right, worked with his brother, Leverett Beman to develop a free African-American residential community, known today as Beman Triangle.

And most notably, the Beman Family’s combined courage and foresight and their significant and selfless work as African-American leaders in the struggle to abolish slavery has helped carve out a path towards equality.

– City of Middletown

Middletown’s mayor called the approval of the name change “a significant moment” for the city.

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