Historically black school renames hall honoring KKK leader

Published 12:48 pm Thursday, October 15, 2020

A historically black university in Alabama has renamed a dormitory that honored a one-time governor who also led a Ku Klux Klan chapter nearly a century ago.

Workers at Alabama State University removed the name “Bibb Graves” from a residence hall on Wednesday. The building had carried Graves’ name since 1928, when he served as the head of a state government that constitutionally mandated white supremacy.

At least two other state schools also have renamed campus buildings that honored Graves, who was known as a pro-education, progressive governor despite leading a KKK chapter in the capital city. Klan membership was so large at the time that politicians used connections in the racist terror group to win votes.

Alabama State President Quinton T. Ross Jr. said the idea of replacing the building’s name had been discussed at least as far back as when he was a student at the school, located a few miles from the Alabama Capitol.

“Many of our alumni have asked for this to happen,” he said in a statement.

Alabama State trustees voted to rename the building earlier this year during the national discussion generated by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The school has yet to decide on a new name for the residence hall.

Troy University has renamed its Bibb Graves Hall for the late Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights icon who grew up near campus and died earlier this year. The University of Montevallo, near Birmingham, voted to rename buildings honoring Graves and Braxton Bragg Comer, who worked to maintain remnants of the old plantation system as governor.

Graves served two four-year terms as governor beginning in 1927 and 1935. He resigned from the Klan and denounced its violence in the late 1920s, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama.