The College of William & Mary announced Friday that the Williamsburg, Virginia, university will remove all displayed images of the Confederate battle flag from campus, including a commemorative plaque and a mace, even though both are deeply embedded in the college's history. The decision was made by the university's president, Taylor Reveley, who sent a letter addressed to the students Friday explaining the change.
A commemorative plaque that names William & Mary soldiers who fought for the Confederacy will be moved from the school's Wren Building to special collections in Earl Gregg Swem Library, where other historic artifacts are stored. It will be replaced with a plaque memorializing the soldiers who fought on both sides of the Civil War.
The likeness of the Confederate battle flag and seal will be removed from the College Mace, which students, alumni and faculty donated to the university in 1923. Reveley said it is the wish of the committee that created the mace, which is used in school ceremonies, that it be "owned in common by all former, present and future students." New emblems have not been determined, but he said they will reflect the college's entire history, including the Civil War.
"We do not seek to put William & Mary’s part in the Civil War out of sight or mind," Reveley said. "The College barely survived the physical, financial and human carnage of that conflict. Nor do we seek to avoid examining and learning from William & Mary’s role in slavery, secession and segregation."
Reveley said that he made the decision with the consultation of the Board of Visitors --the governing body of the College of William & Mary -- and hopes that everyone connected with the university can now "move forward together without ignoring our past."
— Levar M. Stoney (@LevarStoney) August 14, 2015
William & Mary's decision is just one instance in recent months of Southern institutions removing Confederate flag imagery. The efforts follow a South Carolina mass shooting in June that was believed to be racially motivated; a gunman killed nine African-American worshippers that day at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old alleged gunman, who was indicted on 33 federal hate-crime charges, was said to have been partly inspired by Confederate battle flags. This ignited a discussion about displaying Civil War imagery at public venues. In response, South Carolina took down a Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds.