The Burnett Child Development Center will now be the Leola Havard Early Childhood Development School.

Racist Governor Loses Namesake

Former California Governor Peter Burnett

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.

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michaelmack's picture
Submitted by michaelmack on
This governor was, I believe, the first American to publicly use the word "extermination" regarding a people. He did so in his First California Governor Peter Burnett to the California State legislature in 1851: "That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races, until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected." The full text from which this excerpt is taken reveals a tone that promotes extermination of California's Indigenous peoples. This speech did set the tone for other calls from California newspaper editors, and others to push for the extermination of California's Indigenous peoples throughout the first few decades after California's admission into the U.S.

michaelmack's picture
Submitted by michaelmack on
addendum to yesterday's comment: Through the tone this governor set towards California's Indigenous peoples, their estimated population in 1850 of 300,000 to 500,000 was reduced to 15,000 by 1900 over a 95% decline. If the same figures figured were applied to some other group, particularly some group of white people, there would have been an outcry over what happened. Yet in California these facts remain largely ignored, particularly by the subsequent Governors and California's state board of education. If I were in power at a federally recognized tribal government in California, I would work with other tribes to make certain the state addressed this.