Campus Building Renaming Debate at UNA

Bibb Graves Hall

Issue

The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 created the Alabama Monument Protection Committee (AMPC) and prohibits, without the committee’s authorization, the renaming, obstruction, or removal of memorials or monuments more than forty years old. The Act also places restrictions on buildings named after historic figures if the memorial is more than twenty years old. Under the terms of the law, memorial structures over forty years old may not be altered and includes all portions of the memorial that were, at the time of placement, considered permanent (e.g. cornerstones, dedication plaques). Additions made to the building after the initial dedication (e.g. signage and markers) are not clearly defined in this legislation.

 

Under the direction of UNA President, Dr. Kenneth Kitts, a survey of buildings, a review of germane literature, and short historical essays on each of memorialized figure has been produced to aid the various constituencies in their deliberations. This summer, each university senate (faculty, staff and SGA) passed a resolution calling on the Board of Trustees to examine the issue. Dr. Kitts has appointed a university-wide committee to study the matter and provide guidance to the UNA Board of Trustees.


This Act impacts seventeen structures on UNA’s campus. These structures would require AMPC approval to be renamed, demolished, or substantially altered. The University of North Alabama has typically named structures (prior to 1977) for historical figures, such as university administrators and Alabama public officials. Many of these officials have public and private records that are not in keeping with the current values of the institution.


Of the seventeen structures on campus that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Act, three require the attention of the administration: Bibb-Graves Hall, Rivers Hall, and the Lurleen Burns Wallace Fine Arts Center.


David Bibb Graves is associated with the Ku Klux Klan. R.H. Rivers is associated with vehement defenses of slavery and white supremacy. Lurleen Wallace is associated with the complicated legacies of segregation. 


While George Floyd’s tragic death ignited calls to rethink, remove, or rename the physical vestiges of white supremacy across the country, these efforts are not a new phenomenon. Nor should they be viewed as knee-jerk responses in a fleeting moment of national outcry. The historical record clearly demonstrates a robust national debate regarding names and monuments associated with white supremacy, racism, and intolerance from various constituencies since the Civil War. The efforts to confront complicated histories and building names at UNA are firmly grounded in historical precedent. The current national debate finds renewed momentum from wider demographic and cultural shifts that are giving voice to diverse perspectives regarding the history of systemic racial inequities in the United States.


The following tour offers historical and biographical information about each name associated with the three buildings on the UNA campus, along with a contextual overview highlighting the debate and timeline regarding challenges to monuments and names across the country. The blue button at the bottom of each page will take you to the next section of the tour. Please consider completing the Campus Survey at the end of the tour to register your opinion about this debate at UNA.


Site Credits:

  • Dr. Jeffrey Bibbee, Associate Dean, Professor of History, UNA College of Arts and Sciences
  • Dr. Lynne Rieff, Professor of History, UNA
  • Dr. Matthew Schoenbachler, Professor of History, UNA
  • Dr. Ansley Quiros, Associate Professor of History, UNA
  • Dr. Brian Dempsey, Assistant Professor of History, UNA
  • Gabel Duke, Public History Graduate Student, UNA
  • Herbert Foster, Graduate Student, UNA
  • Jonathan Gilbert, Graduate Student, UNA
  • Derek Roberts, Graduate Student, UNA