The Daily Gamecock

'Names have meanings': Students ask for removal of Heritage Act, call for renaming buildings

USC's NAACP chapter holds a student-run protest on Feb. 5, 2022. The chapter led members of the USC community to the State House in a walk advocating for the end of the controversial Heritage Act.

Students called for the repeal of the South Carolina Heritage Act and for the renaming of more than 10 buildings on campus that are named for controversial figures during a protest on Feb. 5. 

The protest started at Greene Street and ended in front of the Statehouse. Leaders Caley Bright, the president of USC's NAACP chapter, and Courtney McClain, the president of South Carolina NAACP youth and college division, urged students to use their voice for change. 

“They could fight against us or ignore us, but that will never change the fact that we now and forever will have a voice,” Bright, a second-year criminology and criminal justice student, said. “I've said it once and I'll say it again. The Heritage Act protects segregationist, Confederate generals and racist bigots.”

The South Carolina Heritage Act requires a majority vote from the South Carolina legislature to remove or amend any historic monument or public space named after a historic person.

McClain said these names are more than titles and contribute to the glorification of South Carolina's racist history. 

“I think that it's important to have this protest, because names have meanings,” McClain, a third-year broadcast journalism student, said. “They mean pain for African Americans, as well as women and other minorities, and we just want our university to fully accept all of its students.” 

Despite recommendations from the Commission on University History last August, the university announced that it would not seek to change building names on campus

The board of trustees did rename a residence hall after Celia Dial Saxon, one of USC's first female graduates and a lifelong educator and activist. This marked the first time a campus building will be named after a person of color. It did not replace one of the 10 building names identified as controversial. 

Faith Gravely, the president of the residence hall association, said she attended the protest to support the actions of fellow students in student government.   

“We've had legislation passed in our organization to help try and rename Sims and Wade Hampton. So that's kind of what I'm here for, just to support the students, support my organization and support this initiative," third-year political science student Gravely said.

McClain said it was “immensely hypocritical” for the university to officially renounce racism but still honor racist figures on campus.

“I feel like the statues, the names of the buildings, they do not reflect that, and they do not reflect the current state of our student body.” Muskaan Makkar, a first-year public health student, said.

McClain said she hopes to see the Heritage Act repealed after the S.C. Supreme Court struck down the previous two-thirds majority vote required to make any changes to buildings protected under the act. With the removal of this requirement, only a simple majority is needed that makes changes more attainable for South Carolina legislators in the future. 

McClain encouraged any student to get involved in the effort to rename buildings. She said students can do this by emailing the USC NAACP chapter leaders or reaching out through their Instagram

- Caleb Bozard, Emma Britt and Jack Wolfe contributed to reporting in this article.