In 2020, a grassroots movement emerged in San Angelo, Texas, with the goal of changing the name of Robert E. Lee Middle School. This movement reflected larger national trends in removing Confederate statues and wrestling with the legacy of the Confederacy. Two professors of history at a regional university decided to participate in the renaming effort. This experience taught them the important role historians can and should play in debates over historical memory and commemoration, especially as allies to movements led by nonacademic community members. Moreover, it offers insights on a significant set of questions for US public historians: What is the role of the professional historian in local debates—contentious school board meetings in particular—that hinge on misconceptions of the American past? In particularly, how can academics use their expertise to combat the supremacy of Lost Cause narratives in the American South? Access to information, often locked behind paywalls, and professional credibility proved to be areas where historians can be of most use. In addition, the authors’ experience demonstrates the vital role local institutions play in the lives of their communities.

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