Backlash as University of Richmond leaves names in place

March 23, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND. Va. (AP) — Some students and staff are unhappy with a decision by the University of Richmond to leave the names of former leaders at the school on campus buildings because of their connections to slavery and segregation.

The private university last month opted against removing the names of former rector Douglas Southall Freeman and the school’s first president, Robert Ryland. The dormitory bearing Freeman’s name was renamed Mitchell-Freeman Hall to honor a former enslaved person who later became editor of a Black newspaper in the city.

Freeman is best known as a historian who wrote exhaustive biographies of Robert E. Lee and George Washington in the 1930s and ’40s. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his work, but in recent years his Lee biography in particular has been criticized by some as fawning.


Ryland became the school’s first president in 1840; he owned more than two dozen enslaved people.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that backlash to the decision to keep the men’s names on buildings has resulted in a student government resignation and criticism from the university’s Black Student Coalition. The faculty Senate says it supports removing the names.