Paulette Nardal’s face now greets the students in front of the study and work room of the Eugène-Hénaff high school in Bagnolet. The biography of this Martinican intellectual, an unknown figure in Negritude, and her sister Jeanne was hung near the door by high school students to pay tribute to these two women, who were also the first black female students at the Paris University of Sorbonne.
On this Tuesday afternoon, the facility renamed five rooms on the occasion of the awareness and action week against racism and anti-Semitism as part of the cooperation with the association SOS Racisme. “We work in many high schools and at the beginning of the school year we wanted to work with the Council of Delegates for the Hénaff High School on this project to honor people who are unknown or with whom they identify,” explains Julie Mauve, in charge of education at SOS Racism.
“Originally we planned to rename all the rooms in the school, but we ended up keeping five because it was way too much work,” says Aurore, a final year student who led the project. Two now bear the names of movements and three more of personalities. “Several suggestions were presented to the students for each room, then they could vote on Pronote (school software). 380 people took part,” she explains.
The “Pantheon of the Forgotten” has moved to high school
The multipurpose room became the “Communardes” room, in reference to the women who took part in the Paris Commune, the Paris uprising of 1871. The Documentation and Information Center was given the better-known name of African-American militant American civil rights activist Angela Davis. The dormitory has been transformed into “Black Panther” in reference to the famous African American revolutionary movement that was founded in 1966. Finally, the infirmary pays tribute to Virginia Henderson, an American nurse (1897-1996) who developed the 14 fundamental principles of nursing.
“We didn’t vote for that woman, it was the high school nurse who chose her,” explain Ephraim and Rachel, two sophomores who have collaborated on the project, notably by writing part of the biographies of the Classrooms. “I found this idea very innovative because it allows characters or movements that aren’t necessarily highlighted in history books to be highlighted and done justice to,” says Rachel.
This Tuesday, the students were also able to discover the statue of the “Pantheon of the Forgotten”, which took place in the school’s entrance hall for the day. Designed by SOS Racisme, this sculpture pays homage to a hundred forgotten figures from history, including the Nardal sisters. Acting as a mind at work, its digital screen alternately shows a hundred faces of people who fought against racism or colonialism.