Patrick Henry High School was built in Minneapolis in 1926 and began its history as a junior high school. It was not until the late 1930s that it became a combined junior and senior high school. In the 1970s it became a stand-alone senior high school.
Patrick Henry High School will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in just four short years. During its 96-year history between Morgan and Newton Avenues in north Minneapolis, Henry has had tens of thousands of students walk through its hallways, wear its uniforms, sing its fight song, and wear the scarlet and gray colors with pride. It is a fixture in the Northside neighborhood of Camden, less than two miles from the Mississippi River and just one block from Victory Memorial Drive.
Because of the Minneapolis School Boards unanimous approval of Resolution 2022-0050 on Aug. 16 of this year, Patrick Henry High School will be changing its name. Four years ago, there was quite a battle over an attempt to change the school’s name. That battle is now over.
This week, on Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Patrick Henry High School will host the State of the School Address in their auditorium. According to the school website, after the address, there will be breakout sessions in separate rooms in the building to have discussions on the school’s name change process. This event will give families, community members and alumni the opportunity to give input on potential name changes.
There has been a lot of discussion on what to rename the school. Some suggest that the school should be named Prince Rogers Nelson High School and its new team nickname could be Purple Rain. Undoubtedly, Prince was one of the greatest musicians to ever come out of Minneapolis.
Another suggestion is to name the school Josie Robinson Johnson High School for the civil rights leader from Minnesota. Johnson has been described by many as the “First Lady of Minnesota Civil Rights.” Among other accomplishments, her leadership was indispensable in passing a fair housing bill in Minnesota in 1962.
Others have suggested that the school be renamed Crispus Attucks High School for the first American killed by the British in the Revolutionary War at the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Attucks was of African American and Native American descent. He was a fearless patriot who was honored as a hero after his death.
Many folks have also suggested names that represent the location of the school such as Camden High School for its surrounding neighborhood. Given its proximity to Victory Memorial Drive, some believe Victory High School would be more appropriate. Still others have suggested Mississippi River or Northwest as acceptable names.
I believe that most of the names suggested by people are heart-felt and workable. No matter what school name is selected, I suggest that the name change committee considers keeping the current team nickname of the Patriots. More than anything else when I attended Patrick Henry High School, I identified with the righteous fight against the colonial British Empire and the victory of America in the Revolutionary War.
I also suggest it may not be wise to name the school for an individual person. Humans are flawed. Some of the greatest accomplished leaders in our history were not kind people. Many of them had negative traits like being poor family members or friends, having drug or alcohol addiction, and/or being sexist, racist or just plain mean.
The old team nickname would work well with most of the new school location names now suggested: The Victory Patriots; The Camden Patriots; The Northwest Patriots.
By keeping the Patriot team nickname, the school formerly known as Patrick Henry High School could keep an important link to its past alive. Alumni from the past 96 years could keep a connection to their old school. We do not have to wipe out history completely to correct injustices in our society.
A healthy compromise is possible.
Dave Berger of Maple Grove is a retired sociology professor who taught for 37 years. He is now a freelance writer, substitute teacher, and 1981 graduate of Patrick Henry High School.