Rock Point School removes Bishop Hopkins portrait and hangs Black Lives Matter flag
Rock Point School and Episcopal Diocese of Vermont remove prominent portrait of bishop who wrote book in support of slavery
Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown, Abbey Baker, CJ. Spirito and three student leaders speaking to the Rock Point school community
Vermont Business Magazine Last week, students and faculty at Rock Point School removed a large portrait of Bishop John Henry Hopkins, a prominent figure in the history of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont. In 1832, Hopkins became Vermont’s first Episcopal Bishop, and his son constructed the school building in the late 19th century to honor his father.
Under the leadership of Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown, the Diocese of Vermont grappled with Church history, including the writings of Bishop Hopkins. This year Bishop MacVean-Brown, along with the leaders of the Rock Point School, read Hopkins’ book titled A biblical, ecclesiastical and historical vision of slavery. In it, Hopkins argues that slavery is not a sin and criticized abolitionists who described it as such.
At school, students and staff began to explore how to reconcile the racist story of this eminent figure, the role he played in founding the diocese, and his belief in the importance of educating women. . A group of students, along with their English teacher, Abbey Baker, and the school principal, CJ Spirito, arranged for the removal of the prominent portrait of Bishop Hopkins which was on display in the entrance hall of the ‘school. The episcopal diocese, which owns the school building and the painting, has agreed that the portrait can be removed.
On May 19, Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown, Abbey Baker, CJ Spirito and three student leaders spoke to the school community about the decision. Part of the students’ statement regarding the withdrawal reads: “Hopkins is one of the countless leaders whose beliefs shaped the legacy of racism in this country, a legacy the effects of which we still see the effects today. It was clear that it had to be moved. The school administration decided to leave a small portrait of Bishop Hopkins in the chapel, along with the students’ written statement, which puts his legacy in context.
Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown applauded the students’ decision: “You are all setting a wonderful example for having studied and discussed with each other and decided that you don’t agree with it… It is important to do the first step and to have a visual representation of this work and the change underway. “
In addition to removing the portrait, the students chose to fly a Black Lives Matter flag in front of the school, above Bishop Hopkin’s name.
About Rock Point School: Rock Point School is a small independent day high school and boarding school founded in 1928 and located in Burlington, Vermont. The school serves students from Vermont and across the country who seek a supportive educational environment.
Source: Burlington, VT – Rock Point School 5.26.2021