Remove UVA's Confederate Memorial, The Whispering Wall
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As America and other nations all across the globe stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, students at the University of Virginia have come together in much the same way, but for a unique purpose. On Sunday evening, over a thousand University students and Charlottesville residents marched from downtown Charlottesville to the Rotunda to demand racial justice and the removal of the city's Confederate statues. These monuments were erected with the intention to instill fear in the hearts and minds of black people in this country following the Civil War. The Confederate statues remain symbols of a violent, white supremacist nation that sought to prevent the liberation of the enslaved and deny the black community their fundamental human rights. One such statue still stands on Grounds at the University of Virginia.
This statue, aptly nicknamed the Whispering Wall, is a notable piece of architecture to many students at UVA because of its uncanny ability to transmit whispers from one end of the wall to the other. Although most University students only know the monument by its nickname, the structure was originally called the Frank Hume Memorial Fountain, named after a Confederate soldier born in Virginia in 1843. After the end of the Civil War, Hume was a staunch supporter of the Confederacy and maintained his white supremacist beliefs up until his death in 1906. In 1938, the memorial fountain was erected in Hume’s honor to serve as a reminder that the racist ideals upheld by the Confederacy were ideals the University was proud to preserve. Etched across the fountain wall, there is an inscription that blatantly endorses Hume’s actions and his beliefs. It reads: “A memorial to the honorable Frank Hume — a devoted Virginian who served his native state in Civil War and Legislative Hall.”
Although the Hume Memorial Fountain now goes by the Whispering Wall, and its past has largely been forgotten, that does not erase the reality behind the memorial’s construction. The Whispering Wall, no matter what it has evolved into, is still a Confederate monument. If the University truly wants to atone for its past and ensure that its future is more just, more accepting, and more inclusive, the Whispering Wall will be taken down. The monument is a reminder of UVA’s racist, Confederate past, and tearing down the Hume Memorial Fountain signifies that UVA will refuse to participate in the racial fear-mongering that was the original intent of its erection.
The time for change is now. The Black Lives Matter movement has served as a catalyst for many cities across the nation to remove and reevaluate the purpose of their Confederate statues. Even in Richmond, after years of complaints and days of recent protests, Governor Northam has finally agreed to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue and tear down other Confederate monuments in the city. Richmond is making significant strides towards atoning for past injustices and moving towards a more equitable future. In order to follow in the capital city’s footsteps, UVA must also make a commitment to stop glorifying relics of this nation’s Confederate past. Removing the Hume memorial is an important step in signifying that UVA will no longer value white supremacist history over its black students.
Chloe Leon & Abena Sekum Appiah-Ofori (CLAS '23)
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