A longtime public elementary school in Passyunk Square will have a new name when students return to class in the fall.
The School District of Philadelphia officially renamed Andrew Jackson Elementary School at 1213 S. 12th St. after groundbreaking educator Fanny Jackson Coppin following a unanimous vote of Board of Education members on June 24. The change is effective on July 1.
The name change of the school, which opened in 1924, is the result of several months of discussions with the Jackson Elementary School community, including a series of surveys, focus groups and meetings that included potential names that spoke to the importance of education within the diverse community, according to school officials.
More than 1,100 school families and community members responded to a survey during the spring, seeking input among four possible names that were up for consideration. Fanny Jackson Coppin Elementary School received the most support.
“Fanny Jackson Coppin dedicated her life to education, doing whatever was necessary to ensure that people from underserved communities and women had access to a high-quality education,” said Jackson Elementary School principal Kelly Espinosa. “She understood that education is the greatest tool in building a positive and productive life and this is a message that still rings true today.”
Born in Washington, D.C. as an enslaved servant in the early 1800s, Coppin came to Philadelphia after graduating from the Rhode Island State Normal School and Oberlin College in Ohio, becoming just the second Black woman to graduate from the college.
While in Philadelphia to work at the Institute for Colored Youth, she eventually became head principal. After her retirement, Coppin became a missionary with the African Methodist Episcopal Church and served in England and South Africa. Coppin is the namesake of Coppin State University, a historically Black college in Baltimore.
“The very principles that she fought to uphold nearly 200 years ago are ones that we instill in our students today and will continue to be what helps drive positive and lasting impact for generations to come,” Espinosa said, noting that Coppin was responsible for vast educational improvements in Philadelphia at the time. “This name is about recognizing the contributions of an educator whose work isn’t widely known, but it’s also about showing our students the impact they can have on the lives of others.”
Currently, the school is named after Andrew Jackson, the 7th president of the United States, who is often seen as a controversial historical figure. The school building, a three-story brick and limestone structure, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. It serves an enrollment of about 600 students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade.
“The School District of Philadelphia recognizes that school names are an important part of students’ learning environments and should cultivate a sense of pride in the history and traditions, to ensure that all students, staff and families feel respected, seen and heard,” the district said in a statement.