The Movement to Change Harriton’s Name

Petition Spreads Among Harriton Students

Dinah+Day-Booth%27s+petition+on+Change.org.

Dinah Day-Booth’s petition on Change.org.

Libby Blackburn

Around September 25, a petition started circling Harriton calling to change the school’s name, as the current name honors Richard Harrison, a slave owner.

While this issue was brought to the attention of the district in early June, it has recently resurfaced with the petition. Harriton Senior Dinah Day-Booth, with the help of junior Nel Blinman, created this petition to advocate for the name change of Harriton, broadcasting it through various social media platforms to attract the attention of other students who may not have been aware of the issue back in June.

Day-Booth created the petition through change.org, including a description of the reasoning behind the purpose of wanting the name change.

Day-Booth strongly believes that “Lower Merion School District should not honor Harrison by naming a school after him. Slavery is a despicable, extremely racist institution, and the effects of historical slavery in the U.S. have directly influenced the systemic racism present in our society today.”

The Banner contacted Harriton Principal Mr. Scott Weinstein to learn about the history behind the name Harriton and the land on which the high school sits. Mr. Weinstein explained how William Penn originally sold this land in 1697 to Rowland Ellis, a Welsh Quaker.

Ellis named the area Bryn Mawr and years later sold his home to Richard Harrison. Harrison was married to Hannah Norris, whose family’s landholdings were known as Norriton, so the couple combined the two names to form “Harriton.”

Weinstein said, “It should be noted that Richard Harrison was a slave owner, who built the fortune of his tobacco plantation on the abhorrent practice of using enslaved African Americans as laborers.”

Weinstein explained that their slave-owning practice ended after the daughter of Richard and Hannah Harrison married abolitionist Charles Thomson. In June, Weinstein assured people that Harriton was not named after Mr. Harrison, but the land that was named a combination of the Harrison and Ellis families’ landholdings.

So far, the petition has 92 signatures, along with comments agreeing with Day-Booth’s proposition.