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Univ. of Arkansas system head: Fulbright statue should stay

July 27, 2021 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The leader of the University of Arkansas system on Tuesday proposed keeping a statue of the late Sen. J. William Fulbright on its flagship campus but add “contextualization” about his legacy, despite calls to remove the monument because of Fulbright’s support of segregation.

System President Donald Bobbitt cited a new state law preventing the removal of historical monuments without state approval in his proposal, which is going before the university’s board of trustees on Wednesday. Bobbitt’s proposal also called for keeping Fulbright’s name on the Fayetteville campus’ college of arts and sciences.

The proposal calls for adding “a contextualization to the statue that affirms the University’s commitment to racial equality and acknowledges Senator Fulbright’s complex legacy, including his record on international affairs, civil rights legislation, and racial integration.”

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Fulbright was a University of Arkansas graduate and served as the university’s president for three years starting in 1939. He is known worldwide for creating an international education scholarship in his name. But the university has faced calls to remove his statue and his name from the school over his opposition to integration and civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s.

Former University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz, who abruptly resigned last month, recommended moving the Fulbright statue. Republican lawmakers during a hearing, however, told Steinmetz that such a move would violate the new law protecting monuments and could result in criminal charges.

Bobbitt said the board could later revisit the issue if there’s a way to relocate Fulbright’s statute that’s consistent with state law.

Bobbitt said he agreed with another recommendation by Steinmetz and a campus committee to remove former Arkansas Gov. Charles Brough’s from a campus dining hall due to his role in the 1919 Elaine Massacre, one of the largest racial mass killings in U.S. history. The board will also take up that proposal Wednesday.