Ellen Garrison naming should spark a bigger discussion

May 12, 2024

Well, that was more complicated than I expected. The Ellen Garrison discussion, I mean.

As we passed the one hour point in the Town Meeting deliberation, I found myself seeing validity in points being raised by both sides. Yet I wondered how many were hiding behind “process” to avoid dealing with something they didn’t want to acknowledge. And on the other side, I wondered how many were wrapping themselves in self-righteousness. But there was clear, sensible logic in both positions. What a beautiful example of our country’s current political situation.

I voted to urge the School Committee to reconsider their decision. And I think that they should name the school after Ms. Garrison. But I fear that would be the end of the discussion, and it shouldn’t be.

Nobody objected to the nobility of Ms. Garrison, nor to the fact that the town has woefully failed to acknowledge the presence of African Americans in the town from its earliest days. And this could be the seed that allows us to get past any lingering rancor and to find a way to honor the continued presence and contributions of African Americans in Concord. Specifically, I propose that the town set aside a day each year to acknowledge and articulate the facts about the African American presence in Concord.

The work of enslaved people who were sent to rebuild the North Bridge (and whose owners received payment for the work of those enslaved people). To what degree were the Concord Abolitionists engaged with African Americans in the town? The work of Ms. Garrison.

A day of Remembrance and Acknowledgement could have a clear place in our schools (public and private). It would be a good way to start an overdue discussion and to keep the conversation going every year.

Nick Pappas

Monument Street