Current temperature in Boston - 62 °
Get access to a personalized news feed, our newsletter and exclusive discounts on everything from shows to local restaurants, All for free.
Already a member? Sign in.
The Bay State Banner
The Bay State Banner

Trending Articles

Dorchester residents weigh in on Columbia Road redesign

Banner [Virtual] Art Gallery

MIT hackathon explores a role for churches in closing wealth gap


Boston renames Dorchester school for civil rights icon Ruth Batson

Mandile Mpofu
Boston renames Dorchester school for civil rights icon Ruth Batson
The McCormack School in Dorchester will be renamed for Ruth Batson. BANNER FILE PHOTO

The Boston School Committee voted unanimously on April 10 to rename a Dorchester public high school in honor of storied civil rights activist and Girls’ Latin School alumna Ruth Batson, who challenged school segregation and launched the iconic METCO program.

The approved proposal will change the name of the recently merged Boston Community Leadership Academy/McCormack 7-12 School to Ruth Batson Academy.

“As a newly formed 7-12 School, the BCLA-McCormack community wanted to choose a name that reflected the school’s new identity,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper in a March 27 meeting.

The late education activist was a “deep community member who did so much for our schools,” Skipper said in a later meeting, and called the name change an “honor.”

The child of Jamaican immigrant parents, Batson is known for her decades-long education advocacy work. She pushed for the desegregation of Boston Public Schools and was among a group of activists who confronted the Boston School Committee’s treatment of Black students. In 1963 and 1964, activists organized day-long city-wide school boycotts to protest de facto segregation, during which Black and white students attended Freedom Schools, a movement Batson contributed to.

In 1965, Batson partnered with other local leaders to launch Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, known as METCO, a voluntary school desegregation program that launched in 1966 and transported Black inner-city students to attend suburban schools. She also made history as the first Black woman to hold a seat on the Democratic National Committee and as the first woman president of the NAACP’s New England Regional Conference.

“I think Ruth would find” the name change “just a wonderful tribute to her hard work, and so would so many of us that worked with her and for equality in education in the Boston schools,” said Peggy Preacely, one of the organizers of the boycotts who worked closely with Batson. “I congratulate the Boston School Committee at this time for having the foresight and the courage to do that because we have to honor our heroes and ‘sheroes’ … At the time that she worked she did not receive the honor that she should have.”

Preacely emphasized the crucial role Batson played “in what we did in the 60s in the Boston and Roxbury Freedom School movement and … against de facto segregation.” Batson’s activism, Preacely said, was a result of her first-hand experience with the school system as a Bostonian whose three daughters had “gone through the unequal school system.”

“She was certainly one of the main people to be our advocate and our champion,” she added.

The leadership team of the BCLA/McCormack 7-12 School, along with its staff, students and community members were “actively involved” in the selection of the new name, school leaders said. During the process, which began in 2021, Batson’s legacy struck a chord with the school’s constituents. In June 2023, the school’s governing board finalized the name change.

“The vision of our school is to support and develop our students to be informed leaders who are critical thinkers and also fearless advocates for their communities,” said the school’s principal, Ondrea Johnston, in the March 27 meeting. “Ruth Batson’s life story as a graduate of BPS who broke barriers as the first Black woman to seek a seat on the BPS School Committee, and also her lifelong advocacy for quality educational experience for all students in our city is one that resonates with our staff and also with our students.”

In January, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the combined BCLA-McCormack School as the city’s first University-Assisted Community Hub School in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Boston. The designation gives students access to college coursework, resources and educators, which “aligns with Ms. Batson’s life work — creating educational pathways and opportunities for Boston students,” Skipper said.

Batson, who died in 2003, joins a group of Black activists whose legacy lives on through the names of Boston Public Schools. The John D. O’Bryant School was named for Boston’s third Black School Committee member, and in 2023, the school district retitled the McKinley schools after organizer and educator Mel King.

Jeri Robinson, chairwoman of the school committee, said she is the only person currently on the committee who knew Batson personally, having grown up during the time when Batson was actively involved in advocacy. Later, as an adult, she said, she worked closely with Batson.

“We couldn’t ask for a more important person that is critical to the history of Boston and Boston Public Schools to be naming this school after,” Robinson said. Batson’s vision, she added, was “about better opportunities for all students, but particularly our Black students at that time who were not getting what they needed.”

BCLA-McCormack School, Boston School Committee, Ruth Batson