University of Texas at Arlington Students fight to change buildings named after Hereford, Woolf

In 2021, the University of Texas at Arlington changed the name of a building honoring EE Davis, a former dean who was also a virulent eugenicist and segregationist, among other unfortunate descriptors. Students claim that it is now time to give the same treatment to two other UTA structures.

Mark Napieralski, a leading member of the Progressive Student Union, is pushing for the school to rename buildings named after former college presidents Ernest H. Hereford and Jack R. Woolf.

It is the latest example of a wider nationwide push to remove vestiges of a prejudiced past. Confederate monuments have been dismantled in Dallas and other North Texas cities, and buildings with links to the nation’s history of slavery and segregation have been renamed.

As Napieralski sees it, it is time for the university to fully abandon its promise to welcome everyone. UTA’s website touts the school’s place as No. 5 on the national diversity index for students.

A Progressive Student Union protest in October saw protesters pressuring the school to change building names and move a bust of Hereford, according to the university newspaper The shorthorn. That month, the group introduced two resolutions on the proposed changes.

UTA records indicate that Hereford was president of the school — then called Arlington State College — when the student body in 1951 chose to adopt a “Rebel school spirit theme.” Rebel flags were flown at events and on campus, the mascot was “Johnny Reb” and mock slave auctions were held in the middle of “Old South week,” which featured white students painted in blackface.

See also  The City of Arlington is closing some facilities early Monday, January 30, 2023 due to hazardous winter weather conditions

Hereford’s administration also allowed a student organization to use the name “Kampus Kadet Klub,” Napieralski said, noting the “KKK” acronym.

After Hereford died in late 1958, Woolf took the reins, “consolidating and centralizing [school’s] Confederate theme,” Napieralski said. He added that Woolf was a segregationist who viewed the eventual integration of the school “with regret.”

Despite desegregation, Woolf’s UTA ​​continued with racist traditions, including blackface student skits, Dallas Morning News reported last October.

Napieralski’s group wants to see a building renamed after the late community organizer Fahim Minkah, who reportedly studied law at UTA and fought to eliminate the college’s Rebel theme.

“Without Fahim Minkah, more than likely, we would have been the Rebels for, if not a few more years, potentially up until now,” Napieralski said.

“If you can rename the institution, you can certainly rename buildings.” – Dr. Michael Phillips, historian and author

tweet this

He also believes that the students are closer than ever to having a say in the matter. This comes as schools and universities in Texas and elsewhere face showdowns over traditions with racist ties, such as UT Austin’s controversial “Eyes of Texas” school spirit song.

A UTA spokesperson said via email that in 2018, a task force was assigned to investigate Hereford’s tenure after student complaints.

“After examining university archives, newspaper clippings and other documents, the task force found no evidence that Dr. Hereford was directly responsible for the allegations against him and therefore recommended no change to the building’s name,” he continued, adding that the same task force came to another conclusion when it came to Davis.

Davis was certainly not shy about his views. In his 1940 book, The white plaguehe touches on the state’s cotton-agricultural economy and refers to coloreds and poor whites as unintelligent and “worthless human dregs,” according to The shorthorn.

Michael Phillips, a historian and author of White Metropolis, also attended UTA and had a good experience. He said that while he was a student there, he didn’t think about the names of the buildings, but later learned about the harrowing history of their inspirations.

Phillips and independent researcher Betsy Friauf, to whom he is married, wrote a column in 2018 for The shorthorn reveals Davis’ support for eugenics. (The previous year he was co-author of an article in Morning news advocated for the removal of Dallas Confederate monuments.) After that, he said, Napieralski picked up the baton and helped lead the student effort to have the name removed.

What was once called Davis Hall now bears the bland but far less divisive title of “University Administration Building.”

Critics have argued that changing a name or removing a monument is a way of erasing history, but Phillips disagrees.

“UT Arlington has had eight different names over its history,” he said, “and if you can rename the institution, you can certainly rename buildings.”

Both he and Napieralski hope that the university grants the students’ demands. For them, it is long past time for the school to stop “whitewashing” its past.

“We can’t change Hereford,” Napieralski said, “but what we can change is whether or not we support him as … a memorial.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *