Should Seabury do something about its namesake’s history? Should we change our name?

Question: Behind the pristine anchor and prominent green and navy, what does our school stand for, and what does its name represent? 

Our school is named after Samuel Seabury (1729-1796), who was the U.S.’s first Episcopal Bishop. Seabury was a major supporter of slavery. He owned several slaves and righteously defended it in many of his writings. He thought of slavery as a typical thing that could be explained by God’s will. 

Putting aside the horrific stances Seabury took on slavery, he was also a loyalist to England during the American Revolution. If you’re familiar with the 2015 musical “Hamilton,” there is a song entitled “Farmer Refuted” that accurately depicts how one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, had a deep hatred toward Seabury because of his proclamations about how America’s Revolution was an unacceptable idea. 

There has been a significant movement in the past year or so that has addressed controversial names on a national and local level. Schools such as Seaman High School in Topeka are currently working on getting rid of their name, which memorializes a KKK member. Even more locally, Pinckney Neighborhood is also in the process of changing their name from that of a slavery defender. Separately, statues are being taken down and sports teams are reconsidering their names all across America. 

I believe Seabury should address our namesake’s shameful past and take action. It is important that we as a school have discussions about this. As a community, we need to understand what our school represents now and how we want it to look in the future. Renaming the school would be a drastic step, but not one that we should disregard, either. In fact, if we do consider a new name, I have a personal favorite: Barbara Harris. In 1989, Harris became the first woman bishop in the U.S. She was an African-American Bishop from Massachusetts who advocated for women’s and LGBTQ rights. 

Even if Seabury does not change its name, it is vital that our school join this movement by continuing to talk about our school’s past while focusing on its future.