WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore is heading a petition drive to rename her Virginia high school, which honors a Confederate general, and the campaign had gathered nearly 30,000 signatures online on Tuesday.
Moore and Academy Award-winning producer Robert Cohen, who both attended J.E.B. Stuart High School in the late 1970s, are asking the Fairfax County School Board to rename the school for civil rights leader and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, according to a Change.org petition.
The effort needs about 5,000 more signatures to reach its goal of 35,000.
“No one should have to apologize for the name of the public high school you attended and the history of racism it represents,” Moore said on the online petition page.
The school in suburban Washington was named in 1959 after James Ewell Brown Stuart, a Virginia native and Confederate cavalry general in the 1861-65 U.S. Civil War.
Until 2001, the school’s emblem featured Stuart riding a horse and waving the Confederate flag, Moore said. It now features Stuart waving a solid blue flag.
Moore attended J.E.B. Stuart from 1975 to 1977. She has starred in such films as “Boogie Nights” (1997) and “The Big Lebowski” (1998), and won the Academy Award for best actress last year for “Still Alice.”
Cohen graduated from the school in 1979. He won an Oscar for “American Beauty” in 1999 and also produced “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012) and “Milk” (2008).
The petition is the latest of many protesting the display of Confederate symbols in public places in the United States. The protests were sparked by the killing of nine black people in a South Carolina church in June by a white man pictured on social media with the Confederate battle flag.
Forty-two percent of Virginians see the Confederate battle flag as a symbol of Southern pride, while 31 percent see it as a racist symbol, according to a Roanoke College poll published on Tuesday.
In northern Virginia, where the high school is, opinion is evenly split, the poll shows. The numbers are based on a survey of 608 adult residents from Aug. 10 to 20, and the margin of error is 4 percentage points.
Reporting by John Clarke in Washington