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Racist Governor Loses Namesake

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A San Francisco preschool recently rid itself of its connection to Peter Burnett, California’s first governor.

He was governor from 1849 to 1851, during which time he signed laws stripping African Americans, Asians and Native Americans of their right to vote and testify.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Burnett Child Development Center will now be the Leola Havard Early Childhood Development School. Havard was the city’s first female African American principal.

Virginia Marshall, of the San Francisco Unified School District, told Bay Area NBC that Havard was born and educated in Louisiana. She later moved to San Francisco, began teaching in the late 1940s and was named principal of John Muir Elementary School. She retired in 1979 and is now 91 years old.

Marshall told NBC that naming a school after Havard was “long overdue” and that the renaming effort began last summer when Rev. Amos Brown, head of the Third Baptist Church and a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader, read about Burnett. The NAACP then became involved. Havard and her family attended the board of education meeting when the group voted to change the name.

The San Francisco Chronicle said that five K-12 schools continue to bear Burnett’s name, but this may be the beginning of the end for all his namesakes.

The Leola Havard Early Childhood Development School is on Oakdale Avenue in the Bayview District.