The university's NAACP chapter demanded that several buildings on campus be renamed and took the lead by holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday in honor of the group calling the Thomas Cooper Library the "Dean" Willie. L Harriford Library from now on.
Caley Bright, the president of the USC's NAACP chapter, said the group will refer to the library as the "Dean" Willie. L Harriford Library, or "The Ford," for short.
Harriford founded USC’s Theta Nu chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, which was the first intercollegiate historically African American fraternity, according to Dyrek Hamilton. Hamilton is the current vice president.
“I am very adamant about scholarship, and so was he ... I’m sure [renaming the library] would mean everything to me and everyone in my chapter," Hamilton said.
Harriford was USC's first Black administrator and helped found the African American Studies Program at USC in 1971.
Bright, a first-year criminology and criminal justice student, also called for Sims residence hall, Wade Hampton residence hall and the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center to be renamed.
Hamilton said the ceremony and the action it took is "a demand for change."
“As a supposed gateway to knowledge and culture, Thomas Cooper Library is misleading and lackluster, to say the least,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said Thomas Cooper was a “narrow minded, disdainful man” and pointed out the fact that Cooper housed two enslaved families as well as an enslaved personal servant.
“It is apparent that we cannot change our history, but we can change who and what we decide to represent,” Hamilton said.
Thomas Cooper was the second president of the University of South Carolina and taught courses in chemistry, mineralogy and political economy. Cooper had pro-slavery beliefs.
Jazmyne McCrae, an alumnus of and current history and secondary education graduate student at USC, serves as the vice president of the Board of Directors for the Repeal the Heritage Act movement.
"As the flagship university of this great state, it is up to us to lead the change in creating a better South Carolina," McCrae said. "But we need bold, courageous leadership from our administration and our Board of Trustees, and we need state leaders who are bold enough to repeal the unconstitutional, heinous, Heritage Act."
Taylor Platt, Harriford's granddaughter, said she is speaking for her family in supporting the renaming of the library. She said Harriford was "a son, a father and uncle of the University of South Carolina" who held the university in his "top five essential institutions."
"Changing the name to honor my late grandfather I know has him smiling down on all of us from above, and most importantly, making it a space for people who did something for everyone, as opposed to the slave owner it's named for now," Platt said.
Clarification (Feb. 18, 2021, at 11:38 a.m.): A previous version of this article was unclear about Willie. L Harriford’s role in founding USC’s Theta Nu chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha.