Dear University System of Georgia Board of Regents, Dean Charles Davis, and the Faculty and Instructors of Record at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication:
Henry W. Grady. In the Georgia educational system, we were taught that his name was synonymous with a progressive New South. Only much, much later, after our time at the University of Georgia, did we realize who Henry W. Grady really was—a white supremacist.
As one media historian, Kathy Roberts Forde, put it just yesterday, based upon her research and resulting public scholarship: “It is disturbing that Henry W. Grady's name graces the University of Georgia’s college of journalism. Grady helped build and protect a criminal justice system in Georgia that unjustly and brutally exploited black men, women, and children. He was NOT a 'moderate racist' for his time, as so many historians have told us over and over. He was a chief architect of white supremacy in the post-Reconstruction South, and his memory was leveraged for generations to celebrate the Jim Crow regime of the New South. He used the Atlanta Constitution as a tool to build racist political, economic, and social systems in Georgia and the South.”
To that end, those who sign here are echoing and amplifying the call of a courageous recent University of Georgia alumni, Sam Jones. In a June 2 guest column written for The Red & Black, Jones called out Grady’s abhorrent racism and urged you to listen: “It’s time for a change [a name change].”
It is honestly well past time for this change.
At the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication, mentor professors have taught students that our identity is bound up in our name.
Right now, the name Henry W. Grady speaks this to your students, to your alumni, to your faculty, to your instructors of record, and to your staff: “The supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards, because the white race is the superior race... [This declaration] shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts.”
Armed with this knowledge and understanding, we demand that you take the necessary steps to rid the journalism & mass communication college of its association with this racist, white supremacist, and we strongly recommend that you consider renaming the college after one of its most storied graduates—award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who courageously integrated this University in 1961.
Hunter-Gault has worked at some of the nation's most highly regarded journalistic institutions, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, PBS, NPR and CNN. In her decades-long career, she has been awarded two National News and Documentary Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards. Moreover, she continues to serve UGA and the journalism college through countless speaking engagements and service on the Peabody Award Board of Jurors from 2009 to 2015.
(Written by alumnae Amber Roessner and Kathryn Schiliro)