Concerned about connections to the confederacy, students and staff at Pinellas County’s Dixie M. Hollins High announced Monday they would be changing the way they refer to the school and giving its teams a new nickname.
Traditionally referred to as “Dixie,” the St. Petersburg school now will be called Hollins High, though its official name will remain the same. It honors the district’s first superintendent, Dixie M. Hollins, who moved to Clearwater in 1908 and took over the system when it broke off from Hillsborough County schools in 1912.
Hollins had nothing to do with the secession of the southern states, but his first name resonated poorly with some residents and students. The issue picked up steam this summer as people across the nation began reevaluating racial attitudes after George Floyd died May 25 at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis.
Perhaps more offensive was the school’s nickname, the Rebels, and the connected logo, a Confederate colonel. The teams will now be called the Royals, though the uniforms will still say Rebels this year, and the colonel is being removed from the campus.
Principal Bob Florio said the move, which has been discussed for the past two years, was not aimed at taking away from the one-time superintendent. In fact, Florio noted, Hollins was quite progressive for his time, supporting education for all students regardless of race and often hiring from Black colleges and universities.
But looking back on the history of the school, opened in 1959, it’s hard to miss the message of the times, he continued.
“When you marry Dixie with the Rebels and a confederate colonel, you’re attaching a connotation that has racist undertones,” Florio said. “As long as we were the Dixie Rebels, we’d still be tied to a past that we felt we needed to break free from.”
He said student leaders approved of the changes when presented with the idea, and some are working on a new, more modern logo to bring the school brand forward.
So far, the opposition to the shift has been muted, Florio said. The last time it was discussed, the biggest outcry came from alumni accustomed to being the Rebels.
“The message to alumni is, whatever you remember the school as ... that’s what it will always be,” he said. “We’re just trying to come up with something that’s more inclusive with the student body today.”
Hollins High’s current demographics are 55 percent white, 21 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Black, 9 percent Asian and 9 percent mixed.