HARRISONBURG, Va. (WAVY) — James Madison University’s Board of Visitors voted unanimously Tuesday to rename three buildings on campus named after Confederate leaders, with the change taking effect immediately.
Donna Harper, Vice President for Access and Enrollment Management at JMU, called it a proud moment in the university’s history.
The three halls on JMU’s Quad were named after Confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Confederate naval officer Matthew Fontaine Maury and Turner Ashby, the “Black Knight of the Confederacy” who died in Harrisonburg during the Civil War.
The decision comes two weeks after University President Jonathan Alger said he was bringing the recommendation to the board, emphasizing the overwhelming support in changing the names from students and alumni, faculty and staff, and community members.
“As many have noted, these names reflected a cause that would have preserved the institution of slavery and dismantled the Union set up by the Constitution,” Alger wrote. “We know that these names are a painful reminder of a history of oppression, and that they send an unwelcoming message to Black students, faculty and staff in particular. That is not who we are or who we want to be. We embrace values of diversity, inclusion, and equity, and we know that we become a better and stronger educational institution as we strive to live out those values.”
The buildings will be given temporary, “non-honorific” designations in the meantime, and an inclusive community-involved process to select new names will happen over the next year.
While discussions about changing other building names on campus will continue, Alger said there are no plans to change the name of the school.
“It is certainly true that James Madison himself owned slaves during his lifetime, and as an institution we have taken important steps to tell the full history of Madison and of his times. We recognize his flaws as well as his virtues—a combination that describes all of us, and our times as well as his … Indeed, without Madison’s life work, we might not be able to have this conversation today. This legacy is also critical to our DNA as a nation, and to our DNA as an educational institution in which we value freedom of expression.”
This article is breaking and will be updated.