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Alabama students working to remove names of former KKK members, slave owners from buildings

Students in Huntsville have fought to change the name of Bibb Graves building for year

Posted: Jun 8, 2020 5:39 PM
Updated: Jun 8, 2020 6:47 PM

A petition to change the names of several college buildings at Alabama universities is circulating online.

One building at Alabama A&M is named after former governor and KKK member Bibb Graves. Students in Huntsville have tried to change the name for years

"This is a really good time to do it, I don't think people were listening when I tried," Dexter Lucious, a former student at Alabama A&M, said.

Lucious had already graduated from Alabama A&M when he started his petition in 2016. He said he didn't like knowing a former Klan member was memorialized at a Historically Black University.

"I didn't feel like it was appropriate for a man to just be basically sitting on top of our hill and overseeing our campus and he was a grand wizard, you know that just it didn't sit well," he said.

But, Lucious says his petition didn't get far. A year later the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act was signed into law. It requires local governments to get the state’s permission to move or rename monuments older than 40 years old.

But, the law is not stopping college students now from trying. Former students at the University of North Alabama took part in a protest to rename the Bibb Graves building on their campus.

"Every school in Alabama pretty much has a building with Bibb Graves' name, that doesn't make it right just because everybody's doing it," Trinda Owens, a former UNA student, said.

"Somebody has to take a stand and say okay you know what, we care about our students enough, we care about your dollars enough to look at changing its name."

Owens attended UNA in the 1980s. She said it's not easy to see the university still has a building named after Graves.

"Me as a black student, I had classes here, to pass by a building, knowing that I'm giving my money to this university, to pass by a university that was named after a Ku Klux Klansman - how do you think that made me feel," she said.

Owens and Lucious both say they are happy to see current college students taking on the fight to rename the buildings. They say hopefully this time, things will change.

"To look and it's 2020, and we're still dealing and the university is talking about paperwork, I just think it's a problem with all these years how come we couldn't get the paperwork done," Owens said.

"I'm really hopeful that they'll be open and really engage in an honest way with the real intent of listen to enact change," Lucious said.

WAAY 31 reached out to Alabama A&M to see if renaming the building is something they will consider talking about. We are waiting to hear back.

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