Virginia State University to Swap Out Four Building Names Honoring White Men with Names to Honor Black Female Alums

Historically Black institution Virginia State University has announced the renaming of four buildings bearing the names of white men with ties to the Confederacy and Jim Crow to names honoring Black women.

On Friday, Aug. 6, the Virginia State University Board of Visitors approved the request to rename four of its buildings, named for Harry F. Byrd Sr., Joseph D. Eggleston, Elbert Lee Trinkle, and Charles Vawter, after four Black VSU alums who made noteworthy contributions to the school.

The building formerly known as Vawter Hall will now be named after Lula Johnson Hall — honoring the first Black woman reportedly to graduate from a Virginia public college (later renamed Virginia State University). In addition, Eggleston Hall will now be Lucretia Campbell Hall — named after Lucretia Campbell, the first Black female member of the school’s faculty.

Unveiling Lula Johnson Hall ( screengrab)

Musician and civil rights activist Johnella Frazer Jackson, who wrote the music for VSU’s alma mater in the 1920s, will be replacing the former Trinkle Hall. Lastly, Byrd Hall will now be renamed Otelia Howard Hall. According to the outlet, Otelia Roberta Shields Howard worked at the university for more than two decades, holding several titles, including professor, adviser and charter member of two organizations on campus.

The change comes just five months following an announcement in March, which highlighted the controversial and racist history linked to previous names of the buildings. Byrd, who served as governor of the state from 1926 to 1930 and then as a U.S. senator from 1933 to 1965, was known for blocking former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s most liberal-leaning legislation.

He was also against racial desegregation and led a campaign against the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a statue of Byrd was removed from Capitol Square in Richmond just last month.

In a statement obtained by the outlet, VSU President Makola M. Abdullah stated: “As an Historically Black University, VSU has always set the tone of celebrating those who came before us to create the legacy that we have today.

Unveiling names that celebrate and honor amazing black women, especially those who have contributed to our VSU history in such an impactful way, shows that we proudly make space for and celebrate those up-and-coming trailblazers who have in the past, and will in the future, make Virginia State University their home.”

School officials further push that the decision to rename the buildings was to ensure that the campus environment reflected the institution.

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