Alabama Trustees to Reconsider Renaming of Graves Hall After Backlash
The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System will reconsider its renaming of Graves Hall in Tuscaloosa after a decision to honor both Autherine Lucy Foster and former KKK officer Bibb Graves in a new name drew severe backlash.
Lynn Cole, a spokeswoman for the Board of Trustees, said they first decided in June 2020 to establish the UA System Working Group on Named Structures and Spaces, a diverse team of academic experts dedicated to examining the names of buildings of other structures on their campuses in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville.
Their recommendations last year led to the renaming of the University of Alabama's Nott Hall, Morgan Hall, Moore Hall and the Ferguson Center, all of which were originally named in honor of figures whose legacies are tainted by racist views or actions that no longer represent the spirit of the University System.
Last week, the Board of Trustees voted to accept the recommendation of the Working Group to rename Graves Hall to Lucy-Graves Hall.
The amendment of the building's name honors Autherine Lucy Foster, the first Black student to attend the University of Alabama after desegregation, but kept the reference to Bibb Graves, a Democratic governor of Alabama who was instrumental in the University's growth.
The issue with Graves' legacy is that after losing the governor's race in 1922, he reportedly became an officer in the Ku Klux Klan, primarily to reap the political benefits of membership at the time.
The Board's decision to honor both figures at once drew heavy fire from around the state and nation, and Cole said Wednesday afternoon that the criticism has not gone unnoticed by the Board of Trustees.
She said the Working Group convened Tuesday, and that the "acknowledges the complexity of this amended name, as detailed in the Board Resolution and the Working Group’s Final Report."
Cole said the Group's recommendation did not come lightly and came after advice from more than a dozen scholars specializing in Alabama history and consulting with many stakeholders, including Lucy Foster's family.
Still, Cole said, "the Board's priority is to honor Dr. Autherine Lucy Foster, who, as the first African American student to attend The University of Alabama, opened the door for students of all races to achieve their dreams at the University. Unfortunately, the complex legacy of Governor Graves has distracted from that important priority."
She said the Working Group will continue to hammer out ideas and consider the input of faculty, staff, students, alumni and more, and will very soon provide a recommendation for next steps to the full Board of Trustees
Cole said the Board will meet to vote on the new recommendation no later than Friday.
For updates on that meeting and vote when they become available, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.
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