A daytime photograph of a multi-story white building, with a bright blue painted entrance.
The entrance to Jordan High School, previously known as David Starr Jordan High School. Source: Saiful Bouquet Inc.

L.A. High School Changes Name to Remove Tie to Racist Eugenicist

Last updated:

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted Tuesday to rename David Starr Jordan High School, thus ending the Watts school’s connection to a racist and eugenicist. From now on, it will be known as Jordan High.

David Starr Jordan, born in Gainesville, New York in 1851, was the founding president of Stanford University. He was a naturalist, ichthyologist (marine biologist) and educator, but that’s not all. Jordan was also really into eugenics and believed in a hierarchy of races. He chaired the Committee on Eugenics of the American Breeder’s Association, and when Ezra Seymour Gosney established the Human Betterment Foundation in Pasadena in 1928, Jordan sat on the initial board of trustees. The Human Betterment Foundation advocated sterilizing those it did not see fit to reproduce.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jordan also contributed to the coverup of university co-founder Jane Stanford’s murder. She was poisoned in her room at the Moana Hotel on the island of Oahu in 1905, traveling there after someone tried to poison her at her San Francisco home several weeks prior. Jordan sailed to the island, hired a local doctor and then proclaimed Stanford had suffered a heart attack. His motives in the coverup remain under speculation, but the pair did not get along.

According to the Los Angeles Times, staff, students and alumni of Jordan High voted for a new name in July, ultimately choosing Jordan High School with 58% of the votes. (Michelle Obama High School garnered 13% of the votes.)

Many of the voters didn’t want to completely ditch the name and erase its diverse history, which includes students who went on to become noted musicians, athletes and scientists. Graduate and pastor Michael Cummings told the Times that people already called it “Jordan High School” when he attended in the ’80s. In his opinion, the name “Jordan High” would retain “the memories, for the good times and people who went there for the education.”

Meanwhile, Stanford University has also decided to rename campus spaces named after Jordan and move a statue of his mentor, Louis Agassiz. Jordan’s name will be stripped from Jordan Hall, currently the home of the department of psychology, as well as from the Jordan Quad, Jordan Modulars and Jordan Way. The Agassiz statue will be moved from Jordan Hall to somewhere where it can be presented alongside the appropriate context surrounding his devotion to polygenism, a belief that suggests different races have different origins and are unequal.

Los Angeleno