Controversy surfaces surrounding Cass Tech namesake

Lewis Cass supported slavery, owned a slave, and forcibly removed Native communities

The name Cass Tech is synonymous with greatness, but the man in which the school was named after is starting to see his fair share of controversy in 2020.

The name Cass Tech is synonymous with greatness, but the man in which the school was named after is starting to see his fair share of controversy in 2020.

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“Three schools being destroyed by fire one just we wore out. And now we’re in a new building,” recalled alum, Monique Bryant.

Cass Tech high has had a lot of significant history in the Motor City over the decades since it’s creation back in 1907 -- churning out quite successful graduates along the likes of Lily Tomlin, Diana Ross and Big Shawn.

“We graduate 97% of our students, our graduates going to college, which they earn over 16 million plus,” said Bryant.

But nowadays the focus seems to be on changing the name of the school in the everchanging year of 2020. Many aren’t too pleased with the fact that Lewis Cass at one point was a slave owner, like alum Kevin Tolbert.

“We would be a hypocrite. If we did not recognize the tragic history of this name and how it hurt not just black people in America, the Native Americans as well. So it’s, it’s time to move on from that name,” added Tolbert.

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But Bryant believes Lewis has nothing to do with the schools legacy.

“I think anything other than the Cass Tech Name destroys the brand. The name of the owner who donated the land does not overshadow the achievements that we all have made,” added Bryant.

Another proposal is to change the person the school is named after while keeping the same name.

“Instead of Louis Cass Tech, let’s call it Melania caste and keep the name cast in the tradition but honor someone who’s definitely deserved,” added Tolbert.

“If we’re gonna do a name change, call it what it is -- the greatest school, the greatest High School ever that removes all doubt,” Bryant Concluded.

Detroit Public Schools Community District spokesperson, Chrystal Wilson sent Local 4 this statement regarding the situation:

About two years ago when the School Board and Superintendent discussed school name changes the School Board was not interested in considering a name change for Cass Tech High School. Since that time the School Board created and passed a school name change policy and it has not been used by stakeholders to initiate a name change for Cass Tech High School.

At the time of the discussion, the overwhelming sense among the School Board was that despite the negative history of the school’s namesake generations of Cass Tech alumni have developed a different history associated with the “Cass Tech” name and have strong feelings against changing the name, including Board Member Vaughn who is an alumnus of the school.

About the Author:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.