Third name’s the charm: Students say Autherine Lucy Hall the best move

Autherine Lucy Hall 2

By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Jas Orr

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees earlier this month announced the College of Education’s building will be named Authrine Lucy Hall, after Authrine Lucy Foster, the first African American student to enroll at the university.

This announcement comes after the university faced backlash for changing the building’s name Feb. 3. Originally named Graves Hall after former Alabama governor and Ku Klux Klan leader Bibb Graves, UA changed it to Lucy-Graves Hall. That decision was, in much of the nation’s mind, inappropriate.

So their second renaming comes as a sigh of relief for UA students and others around the country.

“The university’s step to rename (Autherine) Lucy Hall is an important step in rectifying the wrongs and horrific history of this university and really understanding the foundations of the University of Alabama,” UA sophomore Sean Atchison said. “It also is something the university got wrong. They should have named it Lucy Hall from the beginning.”

In an open letter to the Crimson White, the campus newspaper, members of the Department of Gender and Race studies called for the university to remove Graves’ name from the building. 

“In short, Autherine Lucy Foster deserves better than to share this honor with someone who actively stood against the change she represented on this campus,” they wrote. “Invoking the name of the first Black UA student is an empty gesture when she is named alongside an officer of the KKK.” 

Such complaints were widespread. A week and a day later, the board met again and revisited their decision.

“As I’ve learned from talking with members of the working group, we unanimously recommend that name, and then we recognize it’s never too late to make the right decision,” said John England Jr., trustee and chair of the building names working group.

The group intends for this name change to honor Foster and her legacy on campus. Additionally, the working group remained in close contact with Foster and her family, who recommended the use of her maiden name, the name she enrolled at the university under, on the building. 

The change was unanimous and happened during a live-streamed meeting. Though many students agree the university eventually reached the right solution, their first option never should have been considered.

“It breaks my heart to see the university make errors that absolutely are avoidable if they simply would have listened to the students, if they had listened to the staff, then we wouldn’t have had this national controversy that not only looks bad on the university, but also the faculty and students,” Atchison said.