Who was Nathaniel Rochester and why change the name of School No. 3?

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester City School Board will decide Thursday night whether to rename a local school, in honor of the city’s first black school principal.

Right now Nathaniel Rochester Middle School, School No. 3 is named after the city’s founding father. But recently, his history and legacy a sparking a cry for change.

Rochester was also a slave owner.

This has been the main source of concern for parents and students in a district where 90% of the community is Black, Brown or Latinx. Over 100 people signed and brought forward a petition to the district, a number the district is required to act on.

“Owning slaves was horrific. So that happened, we need to figure out how to move forward from that,” said RCSD superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small. Myers-Small says while Nathaniel Rochester was an integral part of our city’s history, this part of his story is upsetting.

But who was Rochester?

City historian Christine Ridarsky says he moved around a bit in his youth, serving in the Revolutionary War, before settling and investing in the city.

“But like many prominent business men in that era, he relied heavily on slave labor to run his commercial industries as well as his homestead,” said Ridarsky.

Myers-Small says we can recognize his place in the history books while moving forward. Offering more representation to students is one way to do that.

That’s why she’s formally recommending a local woman, Alice Holloway Young, for the new name.

“She was one of six African American teachers first hired in our district many, many years ago, she was the first African American principal and vice principal,” she said.

Young then moved on to be a trustee at Monroe Community College where she serves today.

Myer-Small’s recommendation comes after many others suggested her at public forums, where ideas were bounced around.

Young, especially stood out to Myers-Small as someone living, local and groundbreaking.

“She broke through major barriers, she is an amazing role model and example.”

The board of education will deliberate and go over the superintendent’s formal recommendation at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening, before a final vote.

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