Baldwin Hall mug

Baldwin Hall, the University of Georgia building for the Criminal Justice Studies department among other departments, is one UGA building named after a controversial historical figure. (Photo/Eva Claire Schwartz, evacschwartz@gmail.com)

The history behind the names of some buildings on the University of Georgia’s campus has come to light due to the national and local cry for racial justice. The Red & Black compiled five buildings and colleges on the Athens campus that are controversial due to either their namesake or for the history behind them.

Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Grady College is named after Henry W. Grady. He is known for his career in journalism and for his ownership of the Atlanta Constitution in the 1880s, which merged with the Atlanta Journal in 2001 to become the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He was also a proponent of the “New South,” which was meant to attract investment into the South’s industrial economy after the Civil War, according to a research article written by University of Massachusetts professor Kathy Forde. The “New South” stood for peace between white and black people and was meant to act as a contrast to the “Old South,” which represented an economy reliant on slavery.

In truth, the “New South” also relied on white supremacy. According to that same article, he told a crowd at the 1889 Texas State Fair that white people would always be the superior race.

“The supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards — because the white race is the superior race,” Grady said.

Now, there’s a petition to change UGA’s Grady College to honor Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who was one of the first African American students to integrate UGA. The petition currently has over 4,800 signatures as of press time, and is addressed to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, Grady College dean Charles Davis and the faculty and instructors at Grady College.

Hunter-Gault herself was a newspaper reporter and journalist, graduating with a degree in journalism and later working for The New Yorker, The New York Times, PBS, NPR and CNN. She was also inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

LeConte Hall

LeConte Hall houses UGA’s history department. Its namesake, Joseph LeConte, was many things: UGA’s third geology professor, a supporter of the Southern secession, a founding member of the Sierra Club — an environmental organization — and a slave owner.

“The negroes were strongly attached to him, and proud of calling him master,” LeConte said of his father, and the enslaved people at his family home, according to an article by Boom California. “There never was a more orderly, nor apparently a happier, working class than the negroes of Liberty County as I knew them in my boyhood.”

LeConte was a proponent of scientific white supremacy, or the theory that white people are genetically superior. After Reconstruction, he moved to California, where he wrote “The Race Problem in the South.” This book pushed for the disenfranchisement of African Americans, anti-miscegenation laws and poll tests, according to a 2019 article from The Red & Black. Anti-miscegenation laws criminalize interracial marriage. Although there were never federal anti-miscegenation laws, some existed on the state level until they were ruled unconstitutional in 1967.

“The Negro race as a while is certainly at present incapable of self-government and unworthy of the ballot; and their participation without distinction in public affairs can only result in disaster,” LeConte wrote. “[The South] is solid for self-government by the white race, as being the self-governing race and as a whole the only self-governing race.”

In 2019, students and faculty discussed the removal of a portrait of Joseph LeConte due to his racist beliefs.

“I feel like having this portrait is an insult to all the people he harmed directly through slavery and white supremacy and indirectly through laws and books,” said Arianna Anthony, a sophomore history and education major in 2019.

Before students left campus in March, the portrait was still hanging.

Baldwin Hall

Baldwin Hall has been embroiled in controversy since 2015. The buidling came under increased scrutiny last year when the documentary “Below Baldwin” told the story of UGA’s history with slavery.

Remnants of the bodies of African American slaves were found under Baldwin Hall during its 2015 expansion project. Then, 105 unmarked human grave sites were found underneath the building and transferred to Oconee Hill Cemetery in March 2017.

Baldwin Hall was built in 1938 and, according to a 1978 interview with Dean William Tate by The Red & Black, the University was aware of the unmarked graves at the time of construction.

A memorial was erected three years after the discovery of the remains. The granite marker in front of Baldwin hall reads, “The vast majority of the remains identified were those of men, women and children of African descent, most likely slaves of former slaves … The University of Georgia recognizes the contributions of these and other enslaved individuals and honors their legacy.”

Joseph E. Brown Hall

Joseph E. Brown Hall sits comfortably on North Campus and is named for Joseph E. Brown, former Georgia governor, chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and U.S. senator.

He was the governor during the Civil War and supported the states’ secession. He did not support the Confederacy’s plan to allow enslaved people to fight for the Confederacy in exchange for their freedom, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. He also supported slavery and never renounced that support. He owned 19 slaves when he was governor.

He also feared that Lincoln’s presidency would bring the end of slavery.

“What will be the result to the institution of slavery, which will follow submission to the inauguration and administration of Mr. Lincoln as the President … it will be the total abolition of slavery and the utter ruin of the South in less than twenty-five years,” Brown said in an 1860 speech.

Russell Hall, Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies

Russell Hall is a high-rise freshman dorm, the Special Collections Libraries house multiple historical documents and manuscripts and the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies was established to collect the materials documenting the life and career of its namesake.

Russell was a U.S. senator for Georgia from 1932 to 1971. He was known as a “senator’s senator” due to his knowledge and mastery of Senate rules. He was the leader of the Southern Caucus, and used this power to oppose civil rights legislation, “including bills to ban lynching and to abolish the poll tax,” according to the United States Senate website.

He co-wrote the “Southern Manifesto,” which opposed racial integration and said that 1954 Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court case, which determined that segregated schools were inherently unequal, was an overstep of judicial power, according to the U.S. House of Representatives archives website.

Russell also opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, according to his Senate page.

“If the people of the Southern states are to be forced to accept and conform to some federally dictated social order which is wholly alien to them,” Russell said, according to the Boston Globe, “then it is only fair and right that the Negro population be spread more evenly over all sections of the nation.”

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(3) comments

knwadike

What constitutes a figure or building as being “controversial”? What is the criteria? If we are being completely transparent, by simply using the literal definition of controversial, Mell, Church, and Lipscomb Halls (just to name a few) should be renamed as well. Through my own considerable research on slavery in UGA/Athens area, I was able to find narratives of formerly enslaved people in Athens, publications and documents from former UGA presidents and chancellors who actively supported slavery. Among those presidents/chancellors, I found Patrick Hues Mell, who was chancellor of UGA from 1878-1888 and former president of the Southern Baptist convention. Patrick Mell, who is the eponym of Mell Hall, was a known advocate for slavery and his stances were widely expressed throughout his various publications including: Slavery : A Treatise, Showing That Slavery Is Neither a Moral, Political, nor Social Evil.

-Student, Kristin A. Nwadike

Kathy Roberts Forde

And thank you to the excellent student journalists at the Red & Black for their reporting on these important issues!

Kathy Roberts Forde

Joseph E. Brown was also part of Henry Grady's "Atlanta Ring." He made a vast fortune by abusing black men, women, and children in his Dade Coal Mines and other industrial interests through the convict lease system (he held a 20-year lease). He was a slaver across time, before, during, and after emancipation. UGA: this is THE MOMENT to confront your history. And while you're removing the names of white supremacists and racial terrorists from your landscape, it's time to do something BOLD about the lack of African American diversity in your student body. UGA's first duty is to serve the people of Georgia. While more than 30% of the state's high school students are African American, only 8.3% of the UGA student body is African American (as of 2019). This statistic has improved only 3.6% since 1976. The Board of Regents has the authority and moral responsibility to make things right. See AJC for stats: https://www.ajc.com/blog/get-schooled/only-one-university-georgia-students-black-why/F5acV9pDso1gPZ22nqB2SJ/

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