Our Opinion: Du Bois Regional Middle School a fitting honor for civil rights icon

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Better late than never. From a movement 16 years in the making, local advocates and historians will see their vision spelled out on the side of a newly named educational institution: W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School.

After the district's three member towns gave the OK last year, the Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee on Thursday night followed suit and approved the name change for what is currently Monument Valley Regional Middle School. As such, Great Barrington will make complete an embrace of its most iconic son, despite the controversy his legacy has raised over the years.

The School Committee's unanimous vote highlights the fact that most have moved on from Red Scare-tinged objections to acknowledging Mr. Du Bois, which previously caused his hometown to hold his legacy at arm's length. Not so anymore, at least according to the many proponents of the school renaming plan, who think Mr. Du Bois' often unsung role in the U.S. civil rights movement should be a wellspring of inspiration for young people in the same community where he was first educated.

"Do my babies have to learn about Du Bois on their own when they're 56 years old like their mother?" asked a Great Barrington resident during the school board's hearing, echoing the importance of a figure like Mr. Du Bois not just for historical reference but as a still-resonant voice on racial justice as the country continues to grapple with that goal.

Great Barrington and the greater Berkshires are fortunate to be indelibly bound up in the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois. His tireless advocacy for equality and dignity focused greatly on education as a means to lift up, empower and enlighten generations to come. What better name for a school?

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