• U.S.

Nation: An F in History

2 minute read

At Public School 161 in Manhattan, three-fourths of the students are Hispanic. So the community school board decided to rechristen the school, which bore the name of Fiorello H. LaGuardia. As a three-term mayor, the “Little Flower” championed city dwellers of every race and creed. But no matter; he was Italian, not Hispanic. The board thereupon chose the name of Pedro Albizu Campos, who before his death in 1965 proved his “unselfish devotion,” in the board’s words, “to the cause of liberation of Puerto Rico from the yoke of American colonialism.”

As it happens, only about 4% of Puerto Rico’s voters in the 1972 elections seemed to want liberation. As it also happens, Albizu had waged a lifelong terrorist campaign. He instigated the 1950 assassination attempt against Harry Truman and in 1954, after four of his followers sprayed gunfire around the House of Representatives, wounding five Congressmen, hailed the triggermen for “sublime heroism.”

Some New Yorkers protested. The only Puerto Rican in the House of Representatives, Bronx Congressman Herman Badillo, suggested that the board could “find more impressive people than Mr. Albizu, who supported violence and overthrow of governments.” Asked LaGuardia’s widow, Marie: “Can they do that?” At week’s end the board was standing by its eccentric decision.

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