Jim Nathenson is a 40-year resident of Maplewood, parent of a former Marshall/Jefferson student, “first generation” Trustee of the Community Coalition on Race, and former Member and Vice Chair of the Maplewood Planning Board. The following letter and essay were sent to the South Orange-Maplewood Board of Education.
On August 16, 2021 you committed, by a unanimous vote [editor’s note: 8-0, one member abstaining], to rename the Jefferson School. In my opinion, your process was inadequate and your decision indicated a narrow and misguided understanding both of Thomas Jefferson specifically and of American history in general. That said, your action provides the occasion for a long overdue public discussion of this issue that I hope this essay will provoke. This essay is divided into three parts. The first part discusses the general issue implied by your action; the second deals specifically with Thomas Jefferson; and the third proposes an alternative course of action. It is a long essay, but this is a big topic and I hope you and
community members will give it a fair reading.