Identification buildings of schools honoring racists, say names can’t go away

The Associated Press

COLUMBIA – The president of the University of South Carolina has indicated that he has no plans to ask the Legislature for permission to change the names of nearly a dozen buildings on campus which, according to a special committee , honor racists and civil war figures.

Instead, the university’s interim president, Harris Pastides, said he would encourage principals to focus on honoring deserving people in the new buildings with the same committee suggesting a number of prominent black rulers.

The murder of George Floyd by police in May 2020 resulted in the removal of building names and statues from racists and Southern Confederates.

None of this has happened in South Carolina due to a law called the Heritage Act passed in 2000 that requires a two-thirds vote of the General Assembly to change the name of any building to reflect a character. historical. For the past 21 years, lawmakers haven’t even voted on a demand for civil war or eras of apartheid.

The University of South Carolina has a special committee that has been studying the names of buildings on campus for two years. They found 11 people they believed were named after racists, including a health center named after US Senator Strom Thurmond, who died in 2003. Thurmond began his political career fighting people who wanted to put end to segregation, according to a draft committee report obtained. by The State newspaper.

The committee was due to release its report on Friday. But Pastides went ahead and sent a letter to campus about it two days before.

“State law currently prevents us from changing these names, and we will follow the law. However, we have a duty to tell a more complete story of these individuals and their actions within the context of our shared community values,” wrote Pastides.

The letter from the acting president seemed to indicate that the university would not ask lawmakers to change its name.

Before the start of the 2021 legislative session, Clemson University wanted to remove the name of US Senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, who led violent racist crowds to prevent black people from voting for his administrative building, and Orangeburg wanted remove a Confederate statue from outside his courthouse. The requests were never taken into account, even in the legislative committee.

The Heritage Act of 2000 was part of a compromise that removed the Confederate flag from the top of the South Carolina Statehouse dome. In 2015, lawmakers removed the flag entirely from the Capitol grounds after a racist massacre at a Charleston church killed nine black worshipers.

After the final withdrawal of the Confederate flag six years ago, Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas said no further requests to remove statues or change the building’s name would be accepted while it was in the power. Lucas kept his word.

Many South Carolina lawmakers and officials are awaiting a ruling after the state’s Supreme Court heard arguments in May for the first heritage law challenge. The state’s widow Senator Clementa Pinckney, one of those killed in the 2015 church massacre, is among those suing the state.

Among the African American leaders that the University of South Carolina wants to honor on new buildings are Robert Anderson, James Solomon and Henrie Monteith Treadwell who were the school’s first black students as well as U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn and Ernest Finney, who was the first black chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

The new names “reflect our institutional values ​​and our culture of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Pastides wrote in his letter.

Other names the committee will recommend removing are either segregationists or Civil War figures: Robert Barnwell; Solomon Blatt; Thomas Cooper; Marion Gressette; Wade Hampton III; Robert E. Lee; Augustus Baldwin Longstreet; William Campbell Preston; J. Marion Sims; and James Henley Thornwell.

“The names given to many of our buildings honor people we would not even consider today. Some reflect a legacy of racism and oppression which we strongly abhor and reject,” wrote Pastides.

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