UGA Buildings Will Be Named After Black Alumni

In Summary

“Through these namings, we acknowledge the importance of these pioneers in the history of our institution,” University of Georgia President Jere Morehead said.

UPDATE: Dec. 9, 2021, at 2:42 p.m.

The University of Georgia will be allowed to name two campus buildings in honor of Black alumni who made history at the school after the Georgia Board of Regents approved the proposal on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.  

Shirley Mathis McBay, the first Black student to earn a doctorate from the institution, will have the science library named in her memory, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. McBay went on to have a career as a math professor at Spelman College. She died in 2021 at 86.  

The board also authorized a residential hall under construction to bear the names of Harold A. Black, Mary Blackwell Diallo and Kerry Rushin Miller. They were the first students to attend the university as freshmen and complete their education at the school.  

The proposal to have these buildings named after these early Black alumni came after the University System of Georgia Regents rejected a petition to have the names of people connected with slavery, segregation or the mistreatment of Native Americans removed from 75 buildings statewide.  

Following the rejection, the board issued a statement that read, “Going forward, the board is committed to naming actions that reflect the strength and energy of Georgia’s diversity.” 

However, some critics believe naming buildings for early Black graduates doesn’t make it right to leave names of racists on other buildings. 

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here.  

The University of Georgia is petitioning to the Board of Regents to allow some of the earliest Black graduates to have a library and dormitory on campus be named after them, the Associated Press reports. 

According to University of Georgia President Jere Morehead, the institution would like to have a science library named after Shirley Mathis McBay, who was the first African American to earn a doctorate from UGA.  

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UGA would also like for the board to consider naming a dormitory in honor of Harold A. Black, Mary Blackwell Diallo and Kerry Rushin Miller. These were the first three Black students enrolled at the school. 

“Through these namings, we acknowledge the importance of these pioneers in the history of our institution,” Morehead said in a statement. “We celebrate their remarkable achievements and recognize the profoundly positive, lasting impact they have made on the University of Georgia.” 

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This new petition was brought to the regents two weeks after the University System of Georgia denied removing the names of people associated with slavery, segregation or the mistreatment of American Indians from 75 buildings across the state.  

“We’re still left to have to face the physical legacy of segregationists and slavery apologists as we walk around campus,” said Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Mariah Parker, who is also a UGA doctoral student. “In this moment, it feels like they have to save face right now.” 

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