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Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication is at the University of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia, on Tuesday, February 20, 2018. (Photo/McGee Nall)

It’s time for a change. As a recent graduate of the University of Georgia’s College of Journalism and Mass Communication, I believe there needs to be serious conversations around the man whose name is attached to the school, Henry W. Grady.

This isn’t a new thought, but it became very apparent for me again on Friday afternoon. Midway through a peaceful protest march from Georgia's State Capitol to Centennial Olympic Park, the crowd came to a standstill. At first, we didn’t know why. But when we saw that a statue had now become a focal point for the protesters (and later their spray paint), the pause started to make sense.

In early December, the editorial board of Georgia State University’s excellent student newspaper The Signal wrote an open letter to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The letter, which was also signed by the Young Democrats of Georgia, multiple members of the GSU Student Government Association and the Black Student Alliance at GSU, called for the removal of a statue at the intersection of Marietta and Forsyth streets in downtown Atlanta depicting and celebrating the likeness of Grady, a man who repeatedly used his influence to prop up white supremacy.

The Signal lays out his history directly and plainly, and I encourage you to read it in full. It includes examples of his leadership at The Atlanta Consitution that resulted in headlines such as “Lynching Too Good For the Black Miscreant Who Assaulted Mrs. Bush: He Will Be Lynched.” It also includes examples of some of his speeches:

“'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 in his famous 1888 'New South' speech. 'This is the declaration of no new truth. It has abided forever in the marrow of our bones and shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts.'

And in Grady’s final speech on 'the colored problem' before his death, he reiterated that the 'negro vote can never control in the South, and it will be well if partisans at the North would understand this.'"

The College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA touts itself as one of the best in the country. You’re pitched on it when you walk in the doors and see the walls covered with famous alumni and words proclaiming a dedication to truth, justice and lending a voice to the voiceless. It’s noble. And I genuinely believe that the people at the College of Journalism and Mass Communication work toward that ideal every day. I believe that it is one of the best teachers of its subject matter in the world. I believe that it is a welcoming and kind environment that works to prepare its students to improve the lives of others. And I believe that it can be better.

If the school is going to position itself as a place that fights for the greater good and for the empowerment of unempowered voices, then the branding of the school with the name of a white supremacist is unacceptable.

To be simpler: I don’t want a degree I’m proud of earning to be associated with a dead racist. And neither does anyone else who values what is taught at the school.

I’d like to call for a name change. I’d like for Dean Charles Davis, President Jere Morehead and others to consider that Henry Grady, an outspoken white supremacist, doesn’t deserve to be and shouldn’t be the first name associated with our school.

If anyone is worried about the logistics of removing and replacing Grady’s name, I have good news. We don’t have to look far for something better. Better would be celebrating the first black woman to attend UGA and the first to graduate from the journalism school: 1963 grad and award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

I hope that alumni, faculty, staff and students will join me in having an open discussion about this and will work towards making a simple and obvious fix that is long overdue. It’s a small one. But it’s one that will go hand in hand with upholding the values taught at the school and the values we believe in.

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(8) comments

Zagrosman

Changing names, destroying the past under the excuse of "racism" is the most uneducated idiotic proposal out there. We send our young minds to attend universities for higher education and excel in life! However, this is no longer the case!! Instead the education system produces graduates with thousand of dollars owed in students loans and hate for their own country! It is so illogical to think the past can be changed simply by changing names. So, go waist money on changing names, burning books, changing the national flag and pave the way for Social Marxism. It is so obvious the educational system in our country hates our nation and the founding fathers. They no longer teach how this country was found based on good principles. This is nothing but a sing of failure! You the educators have failed our young minds and our country. You have failed to produce the level of education to allow our young people to compete with other countries! You know this fact and you are blaming it on our historical past! WOW! Shame on you for producing people with nothing but hate. No civilization on earth has a peachy history! Changing names, and history will not pay off student loans or help our kids to be comparative! But, what it will do is pave the way to destroy our country. When that happens, I wonder what would happen to your retirement? The roof over your head? so many other things. But, who am I to say this?? You educated folks look at the rest of the country with hate in your hart! So, I say go for it. Change names and burn books. Wast more money in the name of education and cleaning the past.

DaneClaussen

Response to GenX: Is there any evidence that Grady's family gave money to UGA for the j-school to be named for him? He had been dead for several decades when the j-school was started.

Zagrosman

It's doesn't matter to these people. On twitter, anti Americans like what you see here are calling for changing our National Flag, because it represents racism!! The word racism is a tool\weapon to stop you from expressing your freedom.

GenX

Many of these people paid a lot of money to have their names on these different buildings across the state and the south. Be prepared in those cases to return that money in 2020 dollars to the family and/or trust where available. You wouldn't want to attend a school built with bad money.

JAMaguire

I support the efforts to remove Grady and change the name. -Jennifer A. Maguire, ABJ '82

Kathy Roberts Forde

It is disturbing that Henry W. Grady's name graces the University of Georgia's college of journalism. Grady helped build and protect a criminal justice system in Georgia that unjustly and brutally exploited black men, women, and children. He was NOT a "moderate racist" for his time, as so many historians have told us over and over. He was a chief architect of white supremacy in the post-Reconstruction South, and his memory was leveraged for generations to celebrate the Jim Crow regime of the New South. He used the Atlanta Constitution as a tool to build racist political, economic, and social systems in Georgia and the South. I've published a brief article based on my research https://theconversation.com/an-editor-and-his-newspaper

Revtricia

As a former R&B editor (1977) and j-school grad I heartily endorse this idea. That the school is named after such a racist is an embarrassment and disgrace.

The Rev. Patricia Templeton

ABJ ‘78

Atlanta, GA

David Register

+1 from another J school graduate. It is long past time for the names of old white racists to be buried along with their bones.

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