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Wisconsin activists push to rename Charles Lindbergh Elementary School

The famous Detroit-born aviator was a Nazi sympathizer.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with Charles Lindbergh's “Spirit of St. Louis” in the top left corner. Photo by Menachem Wecker.
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., with Charles Lindbergh's “Spirit of St. Louis” in the top left corner. Photo by Menachem Wecker.

A group of 14 community organizations came together in Madison, Wis., in an attempt to push the city to change the name of Charles Lindbergh Elementary School.

Madison resident Betsy Abramson convened the groups, including the Jewish Federation of Madison, Temple Beth El, the Urban League of Greater Madison, the African-American/Jewish Friendship Group and the African-American Council of Churches. Together, they are navigating the bureaucratic hurdles in changing a school name.

Andrea Richichi, the school’s principal, has made the name change one of her goals. “It’s hard to have someone who has caused a lot of harm and then have his name on the front of the building,” she has said. “I think it is something that’s important to address.”

The renowned Detroit-born aviator was the first to fly nonstop alone across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927. He also flew his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, around the dome of the capitol in Madison several times. The plane is now on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

But there was also a dark side to Lindbergh, who was a Nazi sympathizer. After watching a PBS documentary about Lindbergh and remembering the nearby school bearing the antisemite’s name, Abramson decided to undertake the process of seeking a name change.

“We want kids to be able to study history and to know the background of the people for whom their own school is named,” she said. “Lindbergh is just not one of those people we’d want.”

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