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Welp. Read this in “USA Today:”
“The university’s board of trustees announced Thursday that a campus building called Graves Hall would be renamed to honor Lucy Foster. But beside her name, the name ‘Graves’ will also remain, honoring former Alabama Gov. Bibb Graves, who was once a Ku Klux Klan officer.”
I didn’t really know what to think about the renaming of Graves Hall to Lucy Graves Hall. Of course, with many things involving the racist part of the south’s history, I’m not the first person you should listen to on these matters. I feel privileged as always to have an opportunity to add my voice to the discourse, though.
I think my initial response matches that of many people. The idea of renaming Graves Hall is good, because David Bibb Graves was a Grand Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan and therefore does not deserve public honor. I understand many of us want to preserve pieces of Southern history, but that doesn’t mean wearing them as a badge of pride when there are much more deserving people.
Similarly, the idea of renaming it for Lucy Foster, University of Alabama’s first Black student, makes sense. She has a specific place of honor in the school’s history and in the state’s history.
What student feels inspired by going to class under the name of an old racist governor? Conversely, how many more are inspired to learn under the name of a woman who overcame tremendous adversity to learn in those same halls? I know that this is a highly subjective statement and therefore bad journalism, but hey, go get your own column in the paper.
Then again, consider this. Lucy Foster did not go to class with people who all treated her with kindness and respect. I can imagine there were plenty of times that she had to overcome intense hostility and shoulder past it just to get in the door, both literally and figuratively. Who knows how many times she had to hear that truly awful word in the classroom?
While I think there are better options for how to name this particular building, maybe this is fitting in its own way. Ms. Foster has earned her way to the forefront of one of our state’s greatest universities, and even to this day she has to do it standing shoulder to shoulder with bigotry.