The legacies of four notable Black women tied to Virginia State University are now immortalized on the historically Black institution’s campus with four buildings renamed in their honor.
According to the Associated Press, these buildings were initially named after white men who either could be linked to the Confederacy or the Jim Crow Era. Virginia State removed their names from the buildings five months ago, the AP reports, and the new names were decided by a committee.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch spoke to retired Virginia State historian Lucious Edwards, who was part of the renaming committee for the university.
He told the newspaper it didn’t make sense for a segregationist to have his name on a historically Black university’s campus (which, yeah, he’s right) and that the original names were “footprints of systemic racism and a male-dominated society (which also sounds about right).
More from the Times-Dispatch:
When VSU decided it wanted its new names to recognize Black women, it quickly found four worth honoring.
“It wasn’t hard, and we didn’t have to look far to find women who embody our mission today,” said Tonya Hall, the university’s vice president of external relations.
Per the AP, the new building names were announced during a ceremony on Friday. They are as follows:
- Lula Johnson Hall, who graduated from what is now Virginia State in the 1890s and is believed to be the first woman to graduate from a public college in the state. The building was originally named for a Confederate captain.
- Otelia Howard Hall, named for an English teacher in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Previously the building was named for segregationist Virginia politician Harry F. Byrd Sr.
- Johnella Jackson Hall, named for the woman who wrote the music for Virginia State’s alma mater. Her name replaces Elbert Lee Trinkle, who served as Virginia’s governor in the 1920’s and signed a law that banned interracial marriage in the state.
- Lucretia Campbell Hall, named for the first Black woman who joined the university’s faculty. Previously, it was named for Joseph Eggleston, who was the state’s first school superintendent and served on the university’s board of visitors. The Progress-Index of Petersburg, VA. previously reported that Eggleston “did little to advance the education of Black students during his tenure.”
Virginia’s been going pretty hard recently in terms of reckoning with the various monuments erected to, as Edwards said, perpetuate systemic racism in the state. The only thing that truly feels appropriate to say about it is to parrot what Joy Behar told Meghan McCain on her last day on The View: “OK, bye!”