MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – The National Park Service honored the Mount Vernon School District on Thursday, celebrating the re-naming of the Longfellow campus for a pair of prominent former slaves who made a home in the city.
Shortly before school dismissed for summer vacation in May, district officials announced that they were renaming the Longfellow Elementary and Middle School for Rebecca and Benjamin Turner, who settled and raised a family near Saint Paul’s Church.
According to local historian Larry Spruill, “Benjamin Turner was a free Revolutionary War era African American parishioner of the historic St. Paul’s Church, while Rebecca Turner was a businesswoman and parishioner of Asbury Methodist Church beginning in the 1830s.”
“Their family ties to our community can be dated prior to the 1664 founding of Eastchester, which began at St. Paul’s Church in Mount Vernon.”
Mount Vernon Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton said that this renaming provides the district a chance to honor the Turner’s “legacy.”
“As we continue to transform our school district in the name of social justice, this is a great opportunity to celebrate the Turner’s legacy in Mount Vernon and demonstrate to our students that it is never too late to right a wrong and make amends with the past,” he said.
The National Park Service’s recognition ceremony is “targeted to all fourth and seventh graders at the new Turner Schools.” All students in attendance will be named honorary “National Park Rangers” for the day. There will be music on St. Paul’s historic Erben pipe organ, student presentations and traditional African drummers leading a procession to the gravesite and a floral homage at the grave of Rebecca Turner at the church graveyard.
The free event will begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday at St. Paul’s National Historic Site at 897 S. Columbus Ave.
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