Trude Lamb: the inspirational teen who sparked a school name change over its historical ties to slavery

BY Solomon Mensah September 5, 2023 9:11 PM EDT
Trude Lamb
Trude Lamb. Photo credit:

“I can’t be playing sports, supporting and going to a school that was named after a person who was against my people right here in the United States,” expressed then-16-year-old Gertrude “Trude” Lamb, as reported by ESPN.

At that moment, Lamb was addressing a seven-member committee at her school, Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, Texas, a school that would later undergo a name change to become Tyler Legacy High School.

In a resolute display of her convictions before the committee, Trude Lamb made a solemn pledge not to don a uniform bearing the name of Robert E. Lee.

“He owned slaves and didn’t believe people like me were 100 percent human, let alone ever go to my very high school. I cannot bear and will no longer wear his name on my race jersey.””

In her speech, Trude Lamb was referring to Robert Edward Lee, a man deeply connected to the institution of slavery. Lamb and her fellow students challenged the school’s administration, asserting that their school should not bear the name of a figure with such a history.

Ms. Lamb, a talented runner, immigrated to the United States from Ghana in 2014. Following the deaths of her parents, she had been placed in an orphanage back in Ghana. Laura, her adopted mother and a white woman, also assumed responsibility for Lamb’s brother, Felix. It was only six years after her arrival in America that Lamb found her powerful voice.

In an ESPN report, Laura expressed her astonishment at the transformation her daughter had undergone since coming to America.

Later on, Laura would reflect on this moment in the parking lot, drawing strength from it during sleepless nights when she pondered how to safeguard her daughter. She would think of it when she found herself at the police station, filing a report due to threats against Trude in a group chat, as recounted by ESPN’s Dana Lee.

The protest led by Trude Lamb and her peers resulted in a positive outcome as the school board voted in favor of changing the school’s name. History was made when Robert E. Lee High School was rechristened as Tyler Legacy High School.

As the leader of her school’s cross-country team, Ms. Lamb earned numerous medals. On May 18, 2022, Tyler Legacy High School’s Facebook page celebrated her as the recipient of the Athlete of the Year award.

In December 2022, she signed an agreement with Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Here at Stephen F. Austin State University, Trude Lamb will continue her journey in cross country and track.

Tyler Legacy Coach Teuber shared with the Tyler Morning Telegraph during the signing, “Trude embodies the spirit of cross country. She is the kind of runner every coach dreams of having as a team leader. Trude is a selfless teammate who knows how to mentor young runners and always prioritizes the team’s goals. We wish her the very best in her college pursuits. SFA is gaining a remarkable talent, and Trude is in an ideal place to advance her career.”