The eleventh largest school district in the U.S. has renamed a high school formerly known as Robert E. Lee High School after late civil rights icon John Lewis.

Fairfax County’s school board voted Thursday to rename the school after the late U.S. congressman. The new name, John R. Lewis High School, goes into effect this school year.

Representative Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who is a boardmember for where the school is located in Springfield, near Washington, D.C., proposed a resolution to remove the Confederate general’s name from the school in February.

Several board members clapped and cheered when the unanimous vote was announced.

“The name Robert E. Lee is forever connected to the Confederacy, and Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community,” Kaufax said in a news release.

“I believe that John Lewis’ extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come.”

The lawmaker, whose fight for racial justice began in Georgia in the 1960s, died of cancer last Friday. He was 80.

While the nation reacted to his death with an outpouring of grief and accolades, Lewis’ name had been on the school district’s short list even before last week.

Rev. Jesse Jackson: John Lewis and a lifetime of ‘good trouble’ changed America forever

The son of Alabama sharecroppers, Lewis served in Congress for more than three decades, pushing causes that  challenged segregation, discrimination and injustice in the Deep South. These issues still reverberate today in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“When parents teach their children what is meant by courage, the story of John Lewis will come to mind – an American who knew that change could not wait for some other person or some other time; whose life is a lesson in the fierce urgency of now,” Obama said in 2011, as he was bestowing the Medal of Freedom.

This sentiment was echoed by students and community members in the recent push to commemorate Lewis in Fairfax.

“Change starts at the lower levels of ourselves, then our community then our county,” said a community member at the public hearing Wednesday night, local news station WJLA-TV reported.

“We owe it to the trailblazers of history to continue to fight for equality in any way that we can.”

The renaming of the high school comes as calls increase for the removal of monuments to racist historical figures and renaming of schools and military bases named after Confederate generals and soldiers.

Lewis’ death also brought new attention to efforts to rename Edmund Pettus Bridge, named for a Confederate general, that was the stage for a turning point in the civil rights movement. Lewis and hundreds of civil rights marchers were shot at and beaten during a protest march on the Selma bridge March 7, 1965, an event known as Bloody Sunday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: John Lewis is new name for Fairfax’s Robert E. Lee High School



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