As Confederate monuments and statues begin to finally be removed in many cities across the US, debates arise regarding how we 'honor' history and who should be honored with memorials. If anyone is looking for more 'beautiful' monuments to replace those that have been or will be removed, they need look no further than historically black colleges across the country. Many HBCUs have long honored those who have contributed to the success and strength of their campuses, the African-American community and the nation. One can't underestimate the power of seeing images of and monuments to men and women of color as opposed to those who built their legacies on oppression. As former Sears executive, Lee H. Walker, said of his transformation upon visiting Tuskegee University as a teenager, " I was mesmerized when I saw that statue. I had never seen a life-size--let alone a giant-size--statue of a black man. All giant-sized statues I had seen until then were white males, like Robert E. Lee. But here was a giant-sized black man, dressed up in fine clothes, with one hand pointing out to the future..."
(quote from interview by James A. Clowes on www.heartland.org, published January 5, 2005)
The men of the 62nd and 65th Colored Infantries fought for two things from which they had been deprived: freedom and education. After the end of the Civil War they raised more than $5000 to establish what is now known as Lincoln University of Missouri. A tribute to these heroes is located in Soldiers' Plaza on the campus, within in the school's central quadrangle. Completed in 2007, it is the work by African-American sculptor, Ed Dwight. The design of the plaza includes a monument statue, commemorative plaques, and a seating area.
Unveiled and dedicated on April 15, 1922 before over 100,000 people, the "Lifting the Veil of Ignorance" statue at Tuskegee University is a tribute to the school's founding principal, Booker T. Washington. Washington led the school from its opening until he died in 1915, making it one of the most well-known colleges in the country and himself being one of the most respected Black leaders. The monument portrays Washington lifting the veil of ignorance off his people and pointing the way to progress and a better life using education and industry. Created by sculptor Charles Keck,
Morehouse has memorials for two of its most iconic figures: long-time president, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mays lead Morehouse from 1940-1967, improved the reputation and finances of the college and served as a mentor to King. It was Mays who eulogized King. Mays memorial stands overlooking the campus, behind where he and his wife are buried. Dr. King, whose works are known throughout the world, graduated from Morehouse in 1948 and is arguably its most prominent alumnus. Another monument is dedicated to alumnus and theologian, Howard Thurman. Both the King and Thurman monuments stand near the King Chapel.
On the campus of B-CU, in front of the performing arts center that bears her name, stands a statue of school founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Bethune was not only, an educator but was also a presidential advisor and civil-rights activist who founded the National Council of Negro Women. Ironically, Bethune
is the top public choice of Floridians to replace a statue of a Confederate army general in the U.S. Capitol.
The Fisk campus has one of the many tributes to scholar and activist, W.E.B. DuBois (Fisk class of 1888). DuBois was a social critic and co-founder of the NAACP, as well as the 1st African-American to earn a PhD at Harvard. Another tribute to DuBois is on the campus of Clark Atlanta University, where he was once a professor.
North Carolina A&T has a few monuments to African-American heroes on its campus. One is a tribute to alumnus and astronaut, Ronald McNair, who was killed during the 1986 launching of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Another honors The A&T Four- four freshmen students, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil & David Richmond who, 0n February 1st, 1960,walked downtown and “sat-in” at the whites–only lunch counter at Woolworth’s, sparking others to join in-not only in Greesnboro, but across the country. A tribute to Paul Robeson can also be found on campus.
In April 1998 a monument commemorating the Tennessee churches that were burned in the ten years between 1988 and 1998 was uveiled on the campus of Lane College. The words inscribed on the monument read “Churches are still burning” Sponsored by the National Coalition for Burned Churches and bearing its logo, the monument lists the names, months, and years of all the churches burned during the ten years prior to its completion.
In 1969 South Carolina State erected a monument in memory of three young men who were killed on campus the previous year. Samuel Hammond, a freshman football player from Florida; Henry Smith, a sophomore from Marion, SC, and Delano Middleton, a 17-year-old whose mother worked at the college, were killed on Feb. 8, 1968 when state highway patrol troopers opened fire on a crowd of protesters. Each year the school holds a memorial commemoration of the event that became known as the “Orangeburg Massacre.” A torch is lit at the monument as part of the ceremony.
The Medgar Evers statue at Alcorn State is the largest known to be commissioned and created in honor of the civil rights icon. Dedicated in 2013, following the 50th anniversary of his assisination, it is made entirely of bronze and stands 13 feet tall. The statue, also designed by Ed Dwight, is part of the Mississippi Civil Rights Trail.
Evers enrolled at Alcorn State after serving in World War II. After graduation he became active in voter registration drives and eventually became the NAACP field secretary for Mississippi.
In 2005 Oakwood unveiled a larger-than-life bronze sculpture titled "Monument to Service." Created by Alan Collins, it depicts Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross of Jesus as Jesus was taken to be cruicified. The accompanying plaque states that the sculpture illustrates Oakwood's mission "of preparing leaders in service for God and humanity."
The fountain at Wilberforce, located on the campus since 1909 is not a tribute to a particular person. Originally it provided a source of water to students and faculty. Over time it became a place for students to gather, to pray, where musicians would perform and alumni would share fond memories. Students participating in Greek organizations have participated in rites of passage activites around it. When the originial campus was nearly destroyed by a tornado in 1974, it was largely undamaged and was moved to the new campus that had been built 7 years prior. The inscription reads, “Our Fountain, It must always be there where Forceans may gather and remember the past-the symbol of happiness and love that will last."
The Maryland Educational Association is responsible for the statue of Frederick Douglass on the campus of Morgan State The eight-foot tall bronze cast was completed in 1956 and stands in front of Holmes Hall, directly north of the stadium. Artist James E. Lewis, chair of the Art Department, was chosen to design the monument.
In honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, Claflin dedicated a Veterans Monument this past Memorial Day. It lists the names of all military veterans who attended or worked at Claflin University. It also provides a historical narrative of the university’s ROTC program.
Near the main entrance of Alabama State stands a monument to the mother of the modern civil rights movement, Rosa Parks. It is a tribute to her sacrifice for human rights and honors ASU alumni and faculty who played significant roles in the Civil Rights Movement. Inscribed at the base of the monument: “She sat down so we could stand up.” It was sculpted by Ron McDowell.
The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Memorial was commissioned by the Kentucky State University Alumni Association in 1990 Young, a KSU alu, was a social worker, civil rights leader and head of the National Urban League. The sculptor of the statue, Ed Hamilton, also created the statue of Booker T. Washington at Hampton and the African- American Civil War Memorial in Washington, DC.
Several colleges besides Bethune-Cookman, Morehouse and Tuskegee pay tribute to founders and/or leaders of the school: Grambling, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Alabama A&M, Southern University (Baton Rouge) and North Carolina Central. Delaware State is planning a monument as well.
Other monuments on HBCU campuses include:
Grambling State University: Statue in honor of football coaching legend, Eddie Robinson.
West Virginia State University: Statue of basketball star and alumnus, Earl Lloyd stands in the D. Stephen and Diane H. Walker Convocation Center.
Tennessee State University: Paid tribute to HBCU and Olympic Coaching Legend Ed Temple with a statue.
Hampton University: Honoring famous alumnus, Booker T. Washington
Photo credits: Lincoln University: Ed Dwight website, Lane College: Ken Smith, Alcorn: J. Raphael