Several Georgia State University student groups signed an editorial published Tuesday by its student newspaper demanding Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms remove a statue of Henry W. Grady from a downtown street and relocate it to the Atlanta History Center.
The editorial describes Grady, managing editor and part-owner of The Atlanta Constitution in the late 19th century, as a racist who supported a white supremacist’s campaign for governor, published racist headlines and said he did not support voting rights for blacks.
“Grady was certainly no patriot — he was simply a racist,” the Georgia State Signal editorial said. “By keeping Grady on a literal and figurative pedestal, we continue to celebrate a legacy that is incompatible with Atlanta’s progressive character. Is this truly what ‘the city too busy to hate’ celebrates?”
The editorial, titled “Mayor Bottoms: tear down this statue,” was signed by some student government association leaders, the university’s Black Student Alliance and the Young Democrats of Georgia.
Telephone calls and email to a mayoral spokesman were not returned Tuesday afternoon. Bottoms did not respond to a tweet by The Signal posting a weblink to the editorial.
The statue, erected in 1891, two years after Grady’s death, stands at the intersection of Marietta and Forsyth streets, a few blocks west of Georgia State’s Atlanta campus. Georgia State has the largest enrollment of any college in the state, with nearly 54,000 students.
Grady is often called “spokesman of the New South” for his efforts to sway Northerners to invest in Atlanta industries. He argued blacks enjoyed “fair treatment” in Georgia and throughout the South, which some describe as an outrageous claim.
Moving the statue, though, is prohibited under a new state law. The Georgia Legislature passed a bill earlier this year increasing the penalties against those who damage the state’s public and private monuments that also makes it tougher to remove and replace Confederate markers.
The legislation, Senate Bill 77, says no publicly-owned monument “shall be relocated, removed, concealed, obscured, or altered in any fashion by any officer or agency.” The editorial addressed the law, writing “just because it’s the law doesn’t make it right.”
An Atlanta History Center spokesman said it takes no position on the issue because of the new law.
Grady’s legacy has been debated by other students in recent years. In 2016, the student newspaper at Grady High School in Midtown Atlanta wrote an editorial that the school’s name should be changed for similar reasons. That same year, Houston, Texas school officials voted to rename a middle school named for Grady.
Grady’s name remains on other prominent locations in Georgia including Grady Memorial Hospital and the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.
What to do with monuments and markers for Confederate leaders and others whose words and actions are now viewed as racist has become a national issue. The University of North Carolina last week gave a Confederate monument toppled by protesters last year to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The North Carolina chapter of the group had sued the university system for ownership. As part of the agreement, the statute cannot go back on the university campus or in any county where a state system university is located.
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