Alabama State strips name of Klan member from dorm, renames it for boycott leader 

Jo Ann Robinson had worked to change the segregated bus system in Montgomery before the arrest of Rosa Parks.

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Alabama State University has removed the name of a Klan leader from a building on its campus and replaced it with that of a woman who was a leader in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

Jo Ann Robinson, an English professor at Alabama State College in the 1950s, was active in efforts to change the segregated bus system even before the arrest of Rosa Parks led to the yearlong bus boycott, according to AL.com

Now Robinson’s name replaces that of Bibb Graves on the oldest residence hall on the campus. 

A ceremony marks the renaming of Bibb Graves Hall to Jo Ann Robinson Hall, after the late civil rights leader and educator, at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 19, 2022. (Jake Crandall/ Advertiser / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Jo Ann Robinson Hall was dedicated on April 19, just days after what would have been Robinson’s 110th birthday. She died in 1992. “Today we are here to sing her praise and to let the world know that Jo Ann Robinson’s name deserves to be honored along with other icons with which we are all familiar, many of whom like Professor Robinson held significant ties to this great university,” ASU president Quinton Ross said at the dedication. 

Robinson was one of the first people to advocate for a bus boycott after Parks’ arrest. “If she had not done what she did and been insisting on it, there would have been no Montgomery bus boycott at that time,” civil rights attorney Fred D. Gray told the crowd at the dedication. 

The building was originally named after Bibb Graves, who was governor of Alabama from 1927 to 1931, and from 1935 to 1939. He was the grand cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in Montgomery and the Klan supported his elections. Other universities in the state have recently removed Graves’ name from buildings as well. As previously reported, the University of Alabama renamed its own Bibb Graves Hall after Autherine Lucy Foster, who was the first Black student to attend the university. Foster died just weeks after the dedication. 

Other universities, including Troy University and Jacksonville State University also removed Graves’ name. 

“This is a historic day, and I think it’s been revolutionary across the county in terms of what has been happening with [the] replacement of monuments and emphasis on social justice and equality right now,” President Ross said at the dedication. “While there is a law on the books, like many other laws, should that become an issue, we stand ready to defend our position. But with all the changes that are taking place within the state, within the country, I think this is a welcome change.”

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