The University of Alabama at Birmingham removed the name of former governor George Wallace from a campus building because of his support of racism and segregation.
The Physical Education Building, as it will now be called, was named after the four-term Alabama governor and presidential candidate in 1975.
The Trustees acknowledged Wallace’s eventual denouncement of racist policies, and cited that his rise to power was due to his support of racist ideology. His name on the building, the Board said, served as a painful reminder of racial injustice for many people.
“It is important to the university to always seek positive and meaningful change for the betterment of students, faculty and the community,” Wallace’s daughter, Peggy Wallace Kennedy said in a statement, expressing her support for the name change.
During his inauguration speech in 1963, Wallace infamously promised “segregation forever,” foreshadowing his years as governor that helped define the racist society that disenfranchised Black people across the South. University of Alabama at Birmingham is the site where Wallace attempted to block the enrollment of two Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, on campus, in keeping with his promise.
Trustee John England Jr. said in a statement that removing his name “is simply the right things to do.”
England also acknowledged Wallace’s attempts to express regret for his actions while he was governor, calling his legacy “complex.” England also noted Wallace’s apology to the late Congressman John Lewis who was beaten by state police officers during a march for voting rights in Selma.
“...[H]is stated regret late in life did not erase the effects of the divisiveness that continue to haunt the conscience and reputation of our state,” England added.
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