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University of Alabama Renames Building After First Black Student, Removes Name of KKK Leader

 

The University of Alabama had initially planned to honor its first Black student – Autherine Lucy Foster – by adding her name to a building that bore the name of a former governor who was also a KKK leader. But following public outcry, the university announced the building in question will solely be named after Foster.

Foster’s enrolment at the University of Alabama was not only historic but tumultuous as she had to face off with rioters and also endure threats. She was later expelled from the university, AL.com reported.

The building that has been renamed after Foster initially bore the name of Bibb Graves, a former governor and member of the Ku Klux Klan. The school’s board of trustees had initially intended to add her name to the building. But the board scrapped those plans after students as well as faculty vehemently registered their displeasure.

“If you’re going to give her credit. You have to give it all to her. She endured a lot more than any student that has ever gone to UA probably has,” Barbara Whitesell, a graduate, said. “I was very disgusted and very disturbed that somebody thought that was a way to honor someone.”

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The building’s name has been changed from Bibb Graves Hall to Autherine Lucy Hall. “This has been a challenging time,” Judge John England Jr said at a trustees meeting on Friday. “The working group, in making the recommendation, intended for that paired name of [Lucy-Graves Hall] to generate educational moments to help us learn from our rich, complex history. Well, somehow or another the honoring of Lucy Foster took to the background. That’s not what we wanted.”

The recommendation was reportedly tabled by the university’s working group which was set up by the board of trustees and president pro tempore. The group was mandated to initiate an assessment of the names of buildings, structures, and spaces on the university’s campuses “relative to its fundamental Shared Values, including diversity, inclusion and respect,” the board’s resolution stated, according to AL.com.

Graves, who served as governor of Alabama from 1927-1931 and 1935-1939, is noted for pumping more finances into schools during his tenure. And though he also eventually left the Ku Klux Klan, critics say he had strong ties to the organization. His contribution towards allowing equal education in Alabama has also been questioned.

“It felt that even her [Foster’s] legacy, no matter what accolades she had previously as a Black woman, it did not matter. She had to share the indignity of being on a building name hyphenated with a Klansmen,” Hilary Green, an associate history professor, told the news outlet.

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