Justice Alan Page, meet Justice Page Middle School.
That’s exactly what happened June 14, a day after the Minneapolis Board of Education unanimously voted to rename the school after the ex-Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame football player.
Page was on hand on the last day of the school year to meet students and teachers. He stood outside the school’s Nicollet Avenue entrance, over which the name of the school’s former namesake, Minnesota’s second governor, Alexander Ramsey, is engraved, and shook hands and took pictures with students and staff.
“Just to have been considered was pretty exciting,” Page said. “To have it actually happen was beyond anything I could have hoped for.”
Page’s appearance capped a student-driven campaign to rename the school, which began in earnest at the beginning of the year. Students hosted community meetings throughout the year, gathered feedback from the school community and raised money to pay for new signage and other costs.
The school’s site council voted in favor of the rename in March, and Superintendent Ed Graff expressed his support in April for naming the school after Page.
Page was the first African-American justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, serving on the court from 1993 until his retirement in 2015. His service came after a Hall of Fame football career with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.
Page replaces Ramsey, who has gained notoriety because of the state’s treatment of the Dakota Indians in the mid-19th century, as the school’s namesake. Ramsey negotiated treaties with the Dakota Indians that displaced them from their lands in Minnesota and was governor during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He declared during the war that, “the Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of Minnesota.”
Thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged in the war’s aftermath, and thousands more Dakota were displaced.
Students appeared excited about the change. Eighth-grader Nicholas Chung predicted that more students would want to come to the school, adding that it could inspire other kids to make change. He said he learned from the experience that kids could make a powerful change in the world.
“You can make a big change if you work hard,” eighth-grader Corinne Sidebottom said.
Added sixth-grader Sylvia Thompson: “I’m kind of in awe of what we’ve done.”
Page said the process the students undertook to change the name may be the most important thing.
“They’ve learned how the world works, and that’s something you just can’t teach,” he said. “That’s as important as anything.”