By Cash Michaels –
Because of the pervasive legacy of slavery and racial injustice, many buildings and locations across the state once named after slaveowners and white supremacists are now being renamed to bury that inauspicious past.
But for years, and for different reasons, there have been discussions about renaming Fayetteville State University (a Historically Black College or University, or HBCU). Recently two African American NC state House members filed legislation to make sure that that does not happen.
Called “Prohibit Renaming of Fayetteville State,” HB 270, filed by Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Hoke, Scotland) and Rep. Marvin W. Lucas (D-Cumberland), is “an act to prohibit Fayetteville State University from being redesignated as any other name as a constituent institution of The University of North Carolina.”
The act is effective when it becomes law.
A Change.org petition online, titled “Save the Name ‘House Bill 270’ Fayetteville State University,” started by Bradie Frink, had at press time garnered 182 signatures in support of the legislation.
Petition supporter Derwin Campbell wrote, “This decision could have detrimental [effects] to the autonomy of administrators, faculty, and student government in keeping the history of our fine institution intact.”
FSU, North Carolina’s oldest HBCU, has actually already been through several name changes since its founding in 1867, when it was first established as the Howard School for education of African Americans. A decade later, the school was renamed the State Colored Normal School in Fayetteville.
In 1930, the school became the Fayetteville State Teachers College, 33 years later becoming Fayetteville State College in 1963. It was 1969 when FSU finally adopted its current name.
However, Republican Senate President pro tem Phil Berger wanted to change the name of Fayetteville State University to UNC at Fayetteville in 2016, when he was seeking to lower the tuition of certain schools in the UNC System to $500 for in-state students. FSU was never renamed under the Berger bill, but apparently Representatives Pierce and Lucas are taking no chances, and thus have file the bill prohibiting the renaming of the university.
If HB 270 passes the House, it may still hit a brick wall in the state Senate. Berger is still president pro tem, and if he still wants to change the name of FSU, he can put the brakes on HB 270 so that it never gets the Senate’s sanction, let alone any consideration, and then attempt to pass legislation changing the school’s name.
The question would remain whether Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, would agree to any legislation that changed FSU’s name if opposed by leading African American legislators.