The Beaufort County Board of Education needs to quickly change the logo at Robert Smalls International Academy to accurately reflect the history of the school and the community.
And Superintendent Jeffrey Moss' administration needs to do its homework to spare us of such embarrassment in the future.
When the school that helps form the cultural and educational fabric of Beaufort was repurposed and renamed, a new logo was selected.
Unfortunately, a stock image that turns up quickly in a Google search was selected. It is a Colonial-era person in a uniform that looks like it belongs on Paul Revere.
That would work for a new school with no story to tell. But that's not the case with Robert Smalls. The school's namesake is one of the greatest heroes of American history. And he was not of the Colonial era, but rather a hero of the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Robert Smalls can stand today, 100 years after his death in his hometown of Beaufort, as an inspiration to the students who sit in the school's classrooms. An appropriate logo could help do that.
The school district was correct to play up the traditional team name "Generals" in the new logo. Robert Smalls was a major general in the South Carolina militia.
Robert Smalls was born into slavery in Beaufort, led a dramatic escape from Charleston aboard a Confederate boat during the Civil War, and went on to become a state legislator and five-term congressman.
His story is appreciated nationally. But in Beaufort, the meaning of the Robert Smalls school runs much deeper.
The school opened in 1925, a decade after the death of its namesake, a man who had pressed for state-sponsored compulsory education and was a member of Beaufort County's first school board.
The school served African-American students who were disenfranchised by state law from an education equal to that offered to white students. Yet, the school, under leaders like principal W. Kent Alston, did an incredible job of pounding into its students that their lives mattered and they could achieve all that they set their minds to achieve. Alston brought in national figures such as Marian Anderson to show and tell his students that this was so.
The pride of the school is alive today through class reunions and the overall Robert Smalls Association of alumni. It is no surprise that the association has reacted with alarm at a new logo than can easily be seen as a tone-deaf chipping away at a community pillar.
School symbols have never been taken lightly here. When integration was finally forced upon Beaufort County schools, and the three high schools merged into one, an important symbol from each school was adopted. Beaufort High School contributed the name, Robert Smalls High contributed the school color of green and St. Helena High School contributed the team name, the Eagles.
In that process, Robert Smalls became a junior high. And today, as it begins a new mission serving prekindergarten to eighth-grade students on W.K. Alston Drive, it deserves a team logo that accurately and respectfully reflects its unique position in the community.