USC takes the next step in renaming campus buildings named for racists, slave owners

Lucas Daprile
·2 min read

The University of South Carolina has identified campus buildings that will be the focus of its efforts to rename buildings named for racists, slave owners, white supremacists and more.

The Presidential Commission on University History released an interim report Friday identifying 16 buildings, programs or locations that will be the focus of renaming efforts in the hear future. In early July, the commission expects to produce a set of recommendations on whether to rename the following buildings, programs or other landmarks:

  • Barnwell College

  • Blatt Physical Education Center

  • Gressette Room (in Harper College)

  • Ernest F. Hollings Library

  • Lieber College

  • Longstreet Theater

  • Maxcy College

  • McMaster College

  • Preston Residential College

  • Robert E. Lee Tree

  • J. Marion Sims Residence Hall

  • Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center

  • Thomas Cooper Library

  • Thornwell College

  • Wade Hampton College

  • Woodrow College

These 16 are a small portion of the 70 programs, places and landmarks that the committee wants to review, according to the interim report.

USC is investigating the history of its buildings, and a research assistant already has compiled dossiers on buildings named for Cooper, Lieber, Thurmond, Hampton and Thornwell, according to the interim report.

The commission will not recommend specific replacement names for specific buildings, commission co-chair Val Littlefield said on a USC podcast last week. It will be up to President Robert Caslen and the board of trustees to decide which names should go with which buildings, Littlefield said.

The commission anticipates issuing its final report on the 16 targeted locations to Caslen by July, according to the interim report.

Barring a major change in policy or procedure, USC is not on track to have the names changed this year. That’s because state’s The Heritage Act requires both chambers of the S.C. Legislature to approve changing the name of a building named for a historic figure, and the legislative session ends in May.

The debate over USC’s building names has intensified in recent weeks, following a letter penned by student leaders accusing the university of dragging its feet on renaming buildings.

Earlier this month, a group of students, led by the newly formed USC NAACP chapter and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, informally renamed the Thomas Cooper Library — Cooper was a slave owner and white supremacist — to the Willie L. Harriford Library, in honor of USC’s first Black administrator.

The debate over renaming campus buildings has been simmering for years but was recently ignited after the death of George Floyd in spring 2020. Following Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, USC’s board of trustees formally recommended to the S.C. Legislature that a building named for J. Marion Sims have its name changed. Sims founded modern gynecology, but did so by experimenting on enslaved women.