While Auburn Hides Behind Law, Troy University Takes Racist Name Off BuildingRoundup
tags: slavery, civil rights, memorials, Alabama, John Lewis, colleges and universities
Jennifer Brooks is an associate professor of history at Auburn University.
In recent days, Troy University made history in a way that many faculty, students, and staff at Auburn University can only dream about.
The Troy University community announced that the currently named Bibb Graves Hall, a campus building built in 1929 and named after an unrepentant white supremacist and Klan leader, would be renamed immediately after civil rights icon, Alabama native, and American hero, Rep. John Lewis.
At the same time that Troy University announced this concrete action against the racist history preserved on its own campus, the Auburn University faculty heard our own administration enlist the excuse, again, that renaming campus buildings could not proceed under current state law. The letter of the law as enshrined in the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017 does prohibit the renaming of most historic public buildings without potentially incurring a $25,000 fine.
Not all laws are just, however, and some laws must be broken in order to challenge and change them. Civil rights activists such as Rep. Lewis used civil disobedience — the deliberate breaking of a law — because they felt they answered to a higher purpose, namely, the cause of freedom and equality. Their actions are a source of pride for our state; the question is whether or not Auburn University will follow their path of moral righteousness.