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Slavery and History

Slavery hasn't been a legally sanctioned part of American society for nearly 135 years. But it remains a lively issue.

Case in point: Black educators and parents in New Orleans are removing from their schools the names of any former slave owners. George Washington Elementary School has become Dr. Charles Richard Drew Elementary. Dr. Drew was an African-American surgeon who developed new ways of preserving blood plasma.

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We have mixed feelings about this particular name change. New Orleans's largely black school district is right to cast off school names - like those of Confederate generals - that offend residents. But Washington is called father of the country for a reason. If black Americans in New Orleans, or elsewhere, are seen as having no connection to Washington's role in shaping a society that could evolve toward truer democracy, that's sad.

All Americans have that connection, whether they admit it or not. And Washington, it should be remembered, arranged to have his slaves freed after his death.

Slavery's legacy - made all the more sensitive by today's debate over affirmative action - ought to be better understood by all Americans. The same can be said of George Washington's legacy.