Alabama revisits association of names of KKK leader and black students | USA News®

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By JAY REEVES, Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – The University of Alabama is reconsidering its decision last week to keep the name of a former governor who led the Ku Klux Klan on a building on campus while adding the name of the first black student at the school.

Trustees will meet publicly in a live videoconference on Friday to reverse their decision to keep former Alabama Gov. Bibb Graves’ name on a three-story hall while renaming it Lucy-Graves Hall to also honor Autherine Lucy Foster, University of Alabama System says.

The decision to honor Lucy alongside a former great Cyclops of the KKK has been harshly criticized by some. A student newspaper editorial said Graves’ name did not belong with Lucy’s, given her association with the violent and racist organization.

Foster herself expressed ambivalence, telling WIAT-TV she didn’t know much about Graves, who was seen as a progressive and pro-education governor in the 1930s, despite having led the Klan. in Montgomery during a period when he was at his peak.

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“I wouldn’t say I don’t mind, but I accept it because I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t know they were doing it until I was approached at the end of the last year,” said Foster, 92.

The committee that recommended honoring the two together “recognizes the complexity of this changed name,” the university 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 pursue their dreams at the University of Alabama. ‘university. Unfortunately, Governor Graves’ complex legacy has distracted from this important priority,” he said.

Foster, who lives on the Birmingham Underground, briefly attended classes at Graves Hall after enrolling in all-white Alabama in 1956, but was expelled three days later after her attendance sparked protests and threats against his life. In 2019, she received an honorary doctorate from the university, where she had returned and obtained a master’s degree in education in 1992.

The university also recognized Foster in 2017 with a historical marker in front of Graves Hall, which houses the college of education. He named a clock tower after Foster, and it is a member of the university’s student hall of fame.

Graves, who began the first of two terms as governor in 1927, left the KKK in the late 1920s after several terms in the legislature. As a member of the House, he opposed the ratification of Alabama’s 1901 Constitution, which was intended to ensure white supremacy in the state and remains in effect today although heavily amended.

Several state universities have removed Graves’ name from buildings in recent years as the nation reconsiders its past. The University of Troy renamed its Bibb Graves Hall for the late Representative John Lewis, who was denied admission there in 1957 and led suffrage marchers in Selma in 1965.

John England Jr., a former administrator from Alabama who is black, served as chairman of the nominating committee. He previously said the members were wondering what to do about Graves’ name.

“Some say he has done more to directly benefit African American Alabamians than any other governor through his reform. Unfortunately, this same Governor Graves was associated with the Ku Klux Klan. Not just associated with the Ku Klux Klan, but a Great Cyclops – It’s hard for me to even say those words,” he said.

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