Is it just me, or is it starting to feel like every other week another college or university is taking steps to address its “legacy of racism.” The latest school to acknowledge its racist history is Georgia’s Emory University, which announced on Monday it would begin the process of renaming some of its buildings to address what it called “a legacy of racism, disenfranchisement, and dispossession.”
AJC reports that the university will rename its Language Hall building on the Oxford campus after Horace J. Johnson Jr., a Black man who helped integrate public schools in Newton County and became the first Black Superior Court judge to serve in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit in 2002. Johnson died last year from natural causes.
In addition to Language Hall, the school’s Longstreet-Means residence hall will be renamed to simply Eagle Hall. The building currently takes its namesake from Augustus Baldwin Longstreet. He was the university’s president from 1839-1848 and was all about slavery and secession, and very much against abolition.
“It is inappropriate for his name to continue to be memorialized in a place of honor on our campus,” Emory University President Gregory Fenves said in an email to its campus community.
One of the uncomfortable truths that many universities have grappled with over the last year is the fact that a lot of these older schools were built through the labor of slaves, and Emory is no exception. The university plans to acknowledge this part of its history through two memorials on its Atlanta and Oxford campuses that will be dedicated to the slaves whose labor built the university.
I really don’t know how anyone can argue that racism isn’t endemic to this country’s origin when it feels like every other week yet another institution has to change the name of a building because it honors an out and out racist. If you got buildings, courts, schools, counties, and monuments all dedicated to folks who advocated for Black people to be seen as less than human, you might live in a racist country, just sayin’.
As mentioned earlier, there have been efforts at schools and universities across the country to address systemic racism following the prolonged Black Lives Matter protests last year. There have been student-led movements at the grade school level to have a stronger Black history curriculum, and undergrad students at Brown voted in favor of reparations for students who descended from slaves.