Posted on April 27, 2021

William & Mary Renames Three Buildings, History Department That Honored Confederate Supporters

Eric Kolenich, Richmond Times Dispatch, April 23, 2021

The College of William & Mary has renamed three buildings and a department that currently honor supporters of the Confederacy, the school’s latest move in a yearslong process to shed references to men who supported the Confederacy, enslavement and racism.

Instead, the university will honor the school’s first Black student, a man who studied LGBTQ traditions and a descendant of a U.S. president.

“The past is the past, but how we know it and how we tell it evolves as we learn more and as our community changes,” President Katherine Rowe said at Friday’s board of visitors meeting. {snip}

But one member of the board and the university’s student government president criticized the university for not removing every name that honors an enslaver and not moving fast enough.

“I’m going to have a problem with racism on this campus until we eliminate all of it, and I don’t think we’re eliminating all of it,” Brian Woolfolk told his fellow board members.


William & Mary will rename dormitory Taliaferro Hall for Hulon L. Willis Sr., who was the first Black student to enroll at William & Mary, graduating in 1956. William Booth Taliaferro was rector of the university and a general in the Confederate Army.

The academic building known as Morton Hall, named for a former chair of the history department who defended segregation, will now be called John E. Boswell Hall. A gay man, Boswell studied LGBTQ people and traditions during the medieval period. He graduated from William & Mary in 1969.

Another academic building, Tyler Hall, will be called Chancellors’ Hall, its former name, which honors the school’s chancellors, a ceremonial position. The eponyms for Tyler Hall were John Tyler, the 10th U.S. president who was named to the Confederate States Congress shortly before his death, and Lyon Gardiner Tyler, the president’s son, who defended the Confederacy.

William Tyler, the great-grandson of the president, said his family wasn’t involved when the building was named for his ancestors, and he doesn’t object to the renaming.

These three new building names come after William & Mary’s move last year to rename Maury Hall and Trinkle Hall, which were named for a Confederate naval officer and a Virginia governor who signed Jim Crow legislation.

The board also voted to rename the Lyon Gardiner Tyler Department of History. Lyon Tyler, who was a president of William & Mary, wrote in 1929 “A Confederate Catechism,” which defended the South’s position in the Civil War.


So far, William & Mary has identified 51 former employees or board members who were slave owners. Many of their names still appear on university streets, awards, plaques and buildings, said Anthony Joseph, the school’s student government president, who is Black. {snip}

Joseph told the board of visitors on Friday that there was more work to be done and that the university needed to “work faster.”

“Don’t allow the shadow of our past to continue to grow,” he told the board.