As the Omaha Public Schools considers a complaint that it’s improper to have a high school named for a superintendent, Harry Burke, who discriminated and demeaned black teachers, we offer a potential solution:
Gamble-Burke High School.
Burke, who led the district from 1946-62, hired black teachers only for two segregated schools and refused to hire blacks as high school teachers (including baseball Hall of Famer Bob Gibson’s brother, Josh, who then made a massive contribution to the city and nation by building a youth sports program in North Omaha).
Lucinda Gamble, later Lucinda Williams, was the city’s first black teacher, hired in 1895.
Schools around the country are grappling with this issue as the nation again examines its racial sensitivity in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the knee of a Minneapolis cop. One option is to erase names. OPS Superintendent Cheryl Logan opposes naming schools after people at all.
Burke may be an opportunity, though. Honoring Gamble and forever linking Burke to her legacy could provide a small lesson in history, which is too often sanitized. We cannot learn from the past if we don’t look at what was wrong and ugly.