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Institution's preposterous name change prompts politicians to protest

A grammar school will bear the name of an African-American activist instead of a renowned figure in economic policy, while feminists have renamed streets and squares in the capital.

The grammar school in the French city of Thionville, Moselle departement, used to bear the name of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, one of the greatest figures ever in economic policy. Going forward, however, the school will use the name of Rosa Parks, an African-American civil rights activist, who rejected a bus driver's order to relinquish her seat to a white passenger in 1955.

The administration of the Grand Est region announced the decision in a statement, stressing that changing the name of the school was not politically motivated. The minutes of the board of directors, dated 11 June, states that Rosa Parks' name was already proposed after consultations in late March and early April. Therefore, the idea to change the school's name is not new and the choice was made with the involvement of the teachers and students of the school. The statement denies any connection between the school's new name and the killing of George Floyd on 25 May, or the subsequent events. 

However, the school's explanation has proved insufficient to convince members of the National Rally, who suspect some underlying political motives in the current climate, when historical figures associated with racism, colonisation and slave trade are being challenged in France, too. Several statues have been damaged of late, including that of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the school's previous namesake, ont he grounds that he was responsible for drafting the first version of the Black Code, which regulated the institution of slavery in France.

Francoise Grolet, a local representative of the National Rally party, wrote in a Twitter post that her party condemned the school's name change.

National Rally President Marine Le Pen also made a brief comment, tweeting "Le Renoncement" (renunciation) in connection with the events.

The trend of renaming public spaces has also gained more popularity of late, with eleven streets on the outskirts of Brussels, Etterbeek, temporarily renamed to commemorate leading feminists (including Rosa Parks) for nine months.

Streets have also been renamed in the 15th and 16th districts of Paris, where an organisation called Nous Toutes ("We, all Women") has renamed some streets and squares after some notable female figures, such as French feminist author Benoite Groult, who died in 2016 at the age of 96, or Ada Lovelace, a pioneer of computer science, the only legal child of the famous poet Lord Byron.

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