Tuesday, August 9, 2022

‘Change the name’: Parsley Elementary sign vandalized as pressure to rename increases

A New Hanover County Schools Operations employee paints over red spray paint on the Walter L. Parsley Elementary School sign Friday morning after it was vandalized. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

WILMINGTON — New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office detectives walked the grounds of Walter L. Parsley Elementary School Friday morning, surveying for any additional markings of vandalization after the school’s entrance sign was defaced.

In red spray paint, the school’s name was replaced with “BLM” on one side and with “remember,” “change the name,” and “1898” on the other.

Related: What we know about Walter L. Parsley, his grandson, and a New Hanover elementary school – which all share a name

Parsley Elementary is one of many public and private spaces that have been vandalized since the May 25 killing of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Signs at Hugh MacRae (renamed Monday to Long Leaf Park), two Confederate statues in downtown Wilmington (removed overnight last month), downtown businesses, the walls at Eastport and Landfall, and more have been recently vandalized.

Walter L. Parsley

The vandalization follows the recent public conversation surrounding the school’s namesake is a likely nod to Walter L. Parsley (1856-1941), a racist co-conspirator of the 1898 Wilmington massacre that killed dozens of Black residents. Parsley hosted the eight other members of the Secret Nine in his home several nights to plan the only known coup d’état in American history.

The eldest Parsley reportedly donated 2.3-acres of land that is now part of the school’s campus to the county in 1913.

The New Hanover County Board of Education named the school in 1999 as part of a land sale between the district and Parsley’s grandson who shares the same name. The grandson Parsley, who inherited the land from his family, sold the 17.2-acre Masonboro Loop Road parcel to the district at 3.5 times its tax value at the time, according to a 1999 tax bill provided by New Hanover County Tax Department.

A petition launched last month that includes renaming the school as one of nine requests is the first known attempt to change its name. Board members discussed the possibility of changing the name for the first time at a July 7 meeting. Some confusion remains over whether the school was named for the eldest Parsley or his grandson.

There, veteran staff members shared they seemed to remember the school was named after the eldest Parsley, according to NHCS spokesperson Ann Gibson. Board members are expected to discuss the possible renaming again in August.

Both sides of the Walter L. Parsley Elementary School sign were vandalized sometime before Friday morning. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

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