Students at Georgia State University are pressing the mayor of Atlanta relocate a statute honoring 19th century newspaper editor and “patriot” Henry W. Grady.
On Tuesday, several students groups at the Atlanta university signed an editorial demanding Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms take down the statue, located at the intersection of Forsyth and Marietta Streets downtown — which is actually designated Henry W. Grady Square despite the city of Atlanta failing to replace a missing street sign on one corner for some 30 years — and move it to the Atlanta History Center instead.
Published in the university’s student newspaper this week, the editorial paints Grady as a racist who advocated for a “New South” after the Civil War and supported the campaigns of like-minded racists who sought to maintain the disenfranchisement of Blacks in the South.
The downtown statue, erected in 1891, lauds the late journalist as a patriot. However, students at the school, which is located just blocks south of the intersecting, say that obscures his odious beliefs.
“He was simply a racist,” the Georgia State Signal editorial said. “By keeping Grady on a literal and figurative pedestal, we continue to celebrate a legacy that is incompatible with Atlanta’s progressive character. Is this truly what ‘the city too busy to hate’ celebrates?”
“Let us be clear in recognizing that Grady, as a journalist, promoted racism,” it continues. “Grady, as an orator, promoted racism.”
The Georgia native served as managing editor and part-owner of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper in the 19th century and was praised for his efforts to help Atlanta’s poor. On its website, the University of Georgia, which named its journalism school after Grady, describes the influential Atlanta leader as a “child of the Civil War” who “often spoke and wrote about the need for the region to shift from an agricultural economy rooted in slavery to an industrial economy rooted in education.”
However, it omits his known disdain for Black Americans.
During a landmark 1887 speech at the Texas State Fair, Grady declared that “The supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards — because the white race is the superior race.”
This declaration, he continued, “shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts.”
Members of GSU’s Black Student Alliance, the Young Democrats of Georgia and a few student government leaders were among those who signed Tuesday’s op-ed, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Students want the statue moved to a local museum, but a recently passed law could keep that from happening. Earlier this year, Georgia lawmakers passed Senate Bill 77, which made it harder to remove or replace Confederate monuments.
The legislation explicitly states that no publicly-owned monument “shall be relocated, removed, concealed, obscured, or altered in any fashion by any officer [or] agency.” The law also increased penalties against those who vandalize or damage said monuments.
If the statue can’t be relocated, students said they would be fine with a plaque providing context about Grady’s racist legacy.
“What we can request today is the placement of a plaque beneath the Henry Grady monument clarifying who he was and what he believed,” the article read. “But more importantly, we also request that you publicly advocate for this law to be changed or unwritten. And someday, after this change, we hope to revisit our request to relocate this monument legally.”
Grady’s name remains on several prominent institutions across Georgia, including Grady Memorial Hospital and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
Representatives for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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