More than 1500 people have signed a petition calling for John Witherspoon Middle School to be renamed Princeton, New Jersey

Rev Dr John Witherspoon was born in East Lothian in 1723 and has been a minister in Beith, North Ayrshire and Laigh Kirk, Paisley, Renfrewshire

He immigrated to New Jersey in 1768 to become President of Princeton University and became one of the founding fathers of the United States

The Protestant figure is believed to be the first cousin to be removed nine times from Reese Witherspoon, the star of Legal Blonde and Walk the Line

The New Orleans born actress is said to be very proud of her Scottish heritage and through her family ties to John Witherspoon, Protestant reformer John Knox was her 12th birthday Can describe great-grandfather

For decades, the name of Rev Dr John Witherspoon opened the public school as a tribute to his achievements in his adopted country

But a campaign inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement called for the school to be renamed after students said they honor the “slave owners and anti-abolitionists”

Witherspoon reportedly owned slaves to work his 500 acre estate, and both of them have lectured and voted against the abolition of slavery in New Jersey

The school is now known by the temporary name of Princeton Unified Middle School until a new permanent title is chosen in the summer of 2021

Geoffrey Allen, a former student at the school, started the petition by saying, “Amid the continued support for the Black Lives Matter movement, this created the opportune moment for John Witherspoon Middle School to break free of their John Witherspoon, a namesake of slave owners and anti-abolitionists

“The City of Princeton has shown solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and Princeton Public Schools have made several statements claiming racism in favor of all black employees, students in the district and the rest fight the community

“This change is imperative as the school’s name and Witherspoon heritage create a hostile environment for both middle school and the district’s racially diverse student body”

Reese Witherspoon

World news – AU – Controversial Scot who owns slaves and is considered the ancestor of Hollywood star Reese Witherspoon