Hall honoring racist at Winthrop University vandalized again

AP News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2015 5:36 PM

ROCK HILL, S.C. (AP) — For the second time in recent months, someone calling attention to the racist past of old-South politician "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman has vandalized Winthrop University's Tillman Hall, university officials said Monday.

Authorities wouldn't detail exactly what the graffiti found Monday said. But in a written statement, President Dan Mahony thanked workers for moving so quickly to remove it.

In July, someone threw paint on a portrait of Tillman inside the building.

Tillman, who served as South Carolina's governor and U.S. senator, was an avowed racist who bragged about the 1876 election-season massacre of black people in Hamburg and worked to keep African-Americans from voting. Tillman helped develop Winthrop and Clemson universities.

Also on Monday, Winthrop released a statement from provost Debra Boyd, who is working with a group that's considering what to do next about Tillman Hall in the larger context of how the university deals with racial issues. A similar group has been created at Clemson too.

While it might seem immediately apparent to some that Tillman Hall's name should be changed, Boyd said others have mentioned keeping the name because it's a reminder of how far the university and society have come since Tillman's day.

The statement also acknowledges it might be tough if not impossible to change the name on the building because of a state law requiring a two-thirds vote to rename things that honor historic figures. The law was passed to protect the Confederate flag and other Civil War era memorials.

"We resolve to continue these discussions, but do more than talk; our goal is to identify and act on campus initiatives that are achievable, will have long term impact, and will reflect Winthrop's culture of diversity and tolerance," Boyd wrote. "And we resolve to be known as the university community that took command of a dark chapter in our past and denied it the power to divide us."