An inscription next to the Littlefield Fountain honoring the Confederacy is one example of the University's racist legacy, Edmund Gordon, professor of African and African diaspora studies explained on an Occupy UT-sponsored tour.
Gordon led about 30 students around campus in an effort to display UT's racist heritage. Gordon led the students to Littlefield House, the South Mall, San Jacinto Dormitory, Darrel K. Royal Stadium, the Texas Cowboys Pavilion, Creekside Dormitory and Robert Lee Moore Hall.
“The purpose of this tour is to point out the neo-Confederate aspects of UT's history and geography,” said Gordon.
Gordon said the University's geography and history of racism are products of the time period when it was founded in 1883.
“The University came into being during a particular time, and its initial kind of build-out and conceptualization was done at a time when racial issues were really coming to the fore,” Gordon said. “Privileged and elite white folks felt like vindicating the Confederacy and what the Confederacy stood for.”
The South Mall contains numerous references to the Old South, Gordon said, including statues of Confederate leaders that flank the west side of the lawn.
“The truth becomes revealed when you spread the branches,” he said.
Amy Rattananinad, anthropology senior and Occupy UT member, said Occupy UT organized the event to raise awareness about UT's history and to promote racial equality.
English graduate student and Occupy UT member Trevor Hoag, said Occupy UT's larger goal includes putting an end to racism and racial inequality.
“The Occupy movement as a whole began at its instantiation as a movement for economic justice,” Hoag said. “But questions of economic justice and racial justice are intertwined.”
Hoag said UT's ever increasing tuition prevents people from many middle and lower-class families from attending the University. “Who are those families? Well, they're disproportionately people of color,” said Hoag. “By creating financial barriers, you're creating race barriers.”
Rattananinad, who helped organize the event, said she wants the symbols of the Confederacy remaining on campus to be removed.
“We definitely don't want to keep glorifying racists on campus,” she said.
However, Gordon said he found it important to preserve and study these images and symbols rather than getting rid of them.
“I am one who is not for erasing those things,” he said. “We need to leave the history intact in its embodied form,” he said. “To deny the past and its importance to the present is to deny the truth.”