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Statue of slave owner to be removed at major college — but his name will stay on academic building

Florida State University will remove a statue of Francis Eppes — a school founder and slave owner and Confederate sympathizer — from its present location on campus but will not remove his name from Eppes Hall. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

Florida State University will remove a statue of Francis Eppes — a school founder, slave owner, and Confederate sympathizer — from its present location on campus but will not remove his name from Eppes Hall, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

FSU President John Thrasher announced the plan Tuesday regarding the statue of Eppes, who's also the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, the paper said.

What led to the decisions?

Thrasher created the President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions last September on the heels of deadly protests and riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, over a Confederate statue a month earlier, the Democrat reported.

The 15-member.panel recommended the Eppes statue removal as well as removing his name from Eppes Hall, which houses the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice. the paper said.

Thrasher told the Democrat that Eppes' contributions to what is now FSU were too important to remove his name from Eppes Hall. But a marker will be placed at the building that “accurately explains that Eppes was one of many people who had a role in the establishment of FSU’s institutional predecessor and include additional context," he told the paper.

The Eppes statue removal should happen “pretty quickly," Thrasher told the Democrat, adding that it likely will be taken to a "safe place" until its next location is chosen.

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Afterward a marker will be placed with the statue that explains Eppes’ role in helping to establish the predecessor of FSU, as well as his history of slave ownership, Thrasher added to the paper.

What else was decided?

FSU also will seek legislative approval to erase former Florida Supreme Court Justice B.K. Roberts’ name from a building, the Democrat reported.

Image source: YouTube screenshot

More from the paper:

Roberts, a former state Supreme Court justice, was an avowed segregationist who used his position to thwart the efforts of an African American, Virgil Hawkins, to gain admittance to the University of Florida law school.

Regarding B.K. Roberts Hall, Thrasher said he plans to meet with leaders in the Legislature and the new governor ahead of the March legislative session to seek permission to remove the former justice’s name from the classroom building at the College of Law.

He accepted the panel’s recommendation to provide contextualized recognition of Roberts within the college. [...]

Roberts was instrumental in getting the FSU law school established and was recognized for his other contributions to Florida’s legal system, Thrasher said. But the jurist left a “complicated legacy.”

“To keep the name of B.K. Roberts on the law school building would continue to honor someone whose decisions and actions do not reflect Florida State University's values or the rule of law,” Thrasher — who's a graduate of the law school — noted, according the Democrat. “This honor is a painful reminder of this state's segregationist history, and it is highly offensive to many in our community, including many current FSU law students who attended a forum to formally express their objections.”

What did a leader with Students for a Democratic Society have to say?

Leftist group Students for a Democratic Society helped spearhead the announced changes, the paper said, and Katherine Draken — a senior psychology major and organizer of SDS — said the group is generally happy with the decisions.

“We are glad to hear Thrasher will follow the panel's recommendation because removing the Eppes statue and renaming Roberts Hall are important steps towards making FSU a more welcoming place for black students ...” Draken told the Democrat. “We are disappointed to hear Thrasher will not rename the Eppes building because Francis Eppes does not deserve to be honored with a building considering his legacy of upholding and advocating for slavery.”

What did FSU's College Republicans have to say?

FSU's College Republicans blasted the decisions regarding the Eppes statue and removing Roberts' name, noting "Thrasher has decided to cave in to the whims of the loud minority — a minority set on destroying the fabric of history that we have made so much progress on — in lieu of listening to the overwhelming 71.7% majority of FSU students who voted to keep the Eppes statue in place less than two years ago.”

(H/T: Campus Reform)

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