JMU leaders want Confederate names removed from buildings
University said it will continue, however, to bear name of James Madison despite slave ownership
James Madison University announced Monday that university leadership is asking the JMU Board of Visitors to rename three campus buildings on its Quad that are named for Confederate leaders Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Col. Turner Ashby Jr. and Matthew Fontaine Maury.
“We recognize that these building names are a painful reminder of a history of oppression, and that they send an unwelcoming message to Black students, faculty and staff in particular. That is not who we are or who we want to be,” JMU President Jonathan R. Alger said in a statement. “Much has changed since those buildings were named more than 100 years ago.”
The university will recommend to the board of visitors immediate removal of the building names and assignment of temporary names. It also will recommend establishing a process in which the JMU community can brainstorm new names for the buildings. University leadership is planning to hold a virtual board meeting this summer to discuss plans.
JMU’s Task Force on Inclusion has studied the history of the three buildings in question, and information was compiled by the History and Context Working Group of the task force. Findings were shared with the campus community, and individuals were invited to share their thoughts with university leadership about changing the building names.
“JMU has evolved into a national institution that welcomes students from all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds,” Alger said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to change and evolve, and while that process can be messy and painful at times, it is at the heart of what it means to be a university.”
The university is named for the fourth president of the United States, James Madison, also known as the Father of the Constitution. Madison owned slaves, and the university “recognizes Madison’s flaws as well as his virtues.”
“The university will continue to honor his legacy through the name of the institution, and carry forward his vision ‘to form a more perfect union,’” read the statement from JMU.