At the Board of Education meeting on February 8, 2022, the following report was presented recommending the name change for Millikan Middle School to Louis D. Amstrong Middle School. The report received unanimous support from the Board of Education.
During the summer of 2020, through the efforts of parents the principal became aware of the beliefs of Robert A. Millikan for whom the school has been named and began the important discussion about whether or not continuing to bear his name was the correct choice for the school. Robert A. Millikan believed in Eugenics – the belief that those of European blood were a superior race and that the reproduction of those of European ancestry should be encouraged. Even worse, Eugenics actively sought to prevent the reproduction in other ethnic groups that were deemed inferior and this included advocating for the forced sterilization of these groups. Robert A. Millikan was a member of an organization called the Betterment Foundation, an organization that worked to support this philosophy and which supported and communicated with Hitler’s Nazi Party in the 1930’s.
As a part of this process, meetings that were open to all stakeholders were held over the course of a few months, including faculty meetings, Coffee with the Principal meetings, PTSA meetings, and community meetings so that stakeholders could have input in this decision-making process. Students, parents, and faculty members contributed suggestions for a new name for Millikan Middle School.
A school renaming committee met seven times between August 2020 and March 2021. In November 2020, the naming committee reviewed the suggestions to create a preliminary list with seven (7) potential names. This list included famous Americans, a name that represents the school’s geography, and a version that removes Robert A. from the official name. In selecting the names on this list, the committee considered the following:
- did the individuals represent the themes and vision for our school community – in particular the school’s focus on performing arts and social justice,
- did the individuals have good character,
- did the individuals contribute significantly to our society, and
- did the suggested names meet the criteria outlined by District policy.
Attempts were made to contact the living individuals and the estates of recently deceased individuals for their consent to be included on a ballot. The committee reconvened in December 2020 to review the suggested names and to discuss a new course of action.
A revised list of names for a preliminary ballot was created. A preliminary ballot with seven choices were made public from January 21 – February 5, 2021. A final ballot with four choices including retaining the current name was available to the community February 9 – March 2, 2021. As a result of the process, on the final ballot, Louis D. Armstrong received the most votes.
Louis Armstrong was selected as an option for a name change because of his contributions to American culture through his music and film appearances and his contributions to the civil rights movement. During his lifetime he was a cultural ambassador who traveled the world, performing under the sponsorship of the U.S. State Department. His legacy continues as the best known and loved icon for his uniquely American Jazz art form. He represents the Los Angeles Unified School District continues as the best known and loved icon for his uniquely American Jazz art form. He represents the promise of American democracy where a child of poverty can rise to great fame and artistic accomplishments.
Expected Outcomes: The school and community voted to change the schools current name. With the adoption of this report by the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, Louis D. Armstrong Middle School will become the new name of the school.
To learn more about Louis D. Amstrong’s connection with the Jewish people, read this article.