University of Arkansas launches online biography as step towards adding historical context to Fulbright statue


FAYETTEVILLE – A new online biography launched on Friday is a step toward adding historical context to a campus statue of former U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of the University of Arkansas, announced Friday Fayetteville.

Earlier this year, top university leaders decided not to act on a recommendation by a campus committee to remove the statue from campus, given the senator’s long-standing record of opposing civil rights.

Last year, black student leaders called for the removal of the bronze likeness of Fulbright, perhaps best known for introducing legislation in 1945 that created the international educational exchange program that bears his name.

Next year, UA will be setting up a physical exhibit near the statue, which stands in a backyard of the Old Main college building, to give further context to Fulbright’s life. Until then, “temporary signage” will be placed near the statue with a link to the new digital snapshot of his life and career, according to Friday’s announcement.

“The University of Arkansas recognizes that Senator Fulbright’s record on civil rights issues does not align with the core values ​​of the university and that many are unaware of this story,” begins the new online preview from the Fulbright’s life and career.

“Meanwhile, some ignore his broad actions to promote international peace and security, including through educational exchanges, and other laudable aspects of his record,” the first paragraph of the digital biography continued.

The university’s actions are aimed at implementing a resolution passed in July by the University of Arkansas board of trustees.

The resolution ordered that the statue remain in its current location “and that the University add contextualization to the statue that affirms the University’s commitment to racial equality and recognizes the complex legacy of Senator Fulbright, including its dossier on international affairs, civil rights law and racial integration. “

In their resolution, the administrators also noted a state law passed this year that restricts the removal of monuments on public property. Law 1003, passed in April, requires a waiver from the Arkansas History Commission before the removal or relocation of public monuments.

UA System President Donald Bobbitt recommended to administrators that the statue remain in its current location, but with context added. Former university chancellor Joe Steinmetz previously recommended that the statue be moved to a new, unspecified location.

At a committee hearing in June, several state lawmakers told Bobbitt and Steinmetz they opposed any changes to the statue’s location. Some have spoken out to denounce the “culture cancellation,” and Senator Mark Johnson, R-Little Rock, said no waivers would be granted for a request to relocate the Fulbright statue.


The online preview is titled “The Fulbright Paradox,” with sections titled “Arkansas Connections,” biography / “Fulbright and Internationalism Program” and “Segregation and Civil Rights”. It also includes a “Other Resources” section containing a bibliography of books on Fulbright.

UA’s Friday announcement did not include information about the author of the preview.

John Thomas, an AU spokesperson, said in an email that “the development of the overview has been coordinated primarily through academic relations in consultation with the university’s executive committee.”

Charles Robinson, the AU’s Acting Chancellor, is a professor of history and previously served as the Director of the AU’s African and African-American Studies program.

In Friday’s announcement, Robinson made a similar statement at the start of the digital preview of Fulbright’s life.

Robinson went on to say in his statement that there is “an opportunity for us to embrace our mission of teaching and learning, to engage in the fuller story of J. William Fulbright and to use the experience to continue our work to build a better campus and world. “

Thomas said no board approval was required for the newly released portrayal of Fulbright, although he added that “the preview was shared with UA System Office prior to release.”

The “Arkansas Connections” section of the preview indicates that Fulbright served as president of the University of Arkansas. He also notes that Fulbright, while a student at the AU, served as president of the student government and was a member of the soccer team.

The section goes on to list Fulbright’s time in the US Senate, where he served from 1945 to 1974, while noting that Fulbright was awarded the 1993 Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was presented to him by US President Bill Clinton. , described as a “fellow Arkansan and former faculty member at the University of Arkansas”

He has been a Democrat, although the online preview does not indicate Fulbright’s political party.

The “Fulbright Program and Internationalism” section provides more details on the Fulbright Exchange Program, including the words Fulbright used to describe the effort as “to bring in a little more knowledge, a little more sanity and a little more compassion in world affairs and thus increase the chances that nations will finally learn to live in peace and friendship.

The snapshot says that “more than 400,000 ‘Fulbrighters’ from over 160 countries have benefited from what has become one of the best known and most prestigious scholarships.”

The “Segregation and Civil Rights” section begins with a subsection titled “Early Opposition to Desegregation,” stating that Fulbright opposed the establishment of a state for Alaska “because he believed his delegation to Congress would vote in favor of civil rights legislation ”.

In 1956, Fulbright joined an effort to oppose the landmark United States Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, which concluded that the racial segregation of schools was unconstitutional.

Fulbright “joined more than 19 Southern Senators and 77 Representatives in signing a counter-declaration to the ruling – the Bill of Constitutional Rights, informally known as the Southern Manifesto – which essentially opposed the racial integration in public places.

All congressional delegations from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as many other congressmen from Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas have signed up to support the manifesto, ”the digital biography says.

Fulbright also “did not challenge” state governor Orval Faubus in 1957 when Faubus attempted to prevent black students from attending Little Rock Central High School, the preview reads.

“Along with most southern lawmakers, Fulbright voted against the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the survey continues. “He participated in obstruction of law that prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, banning employment discrimination, unequal voting registration requirements and segregation in schools and public places. “

The next line in the overview reads: “However, in 1972, Senator Fulbright voted to strengthen the enforcement powers of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

The preview also notes that Fulbright opposed the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which would have prohibited discrimination in the sale and rental of housing, and he also opposed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

But he notes that Fulbright “in 1970 voted for a five-year extension of the voting rights law, supporting the retention of special provisions banning discriminatory electoral practices, particularly in the South.”

The section concludes by noting that Fulbright in 1967 voted for the appointment of Thurgood Marshall to the United States Supreme Court – Marshall became the first black judge of the United States Supreme Court – and that Fulbright in 1970 “voted against G’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Harrold Carswell, who had once argued for white supremacy.”


Charles King, historian and professor at Georgetown University, wrote an article titled “The Fulbright Paradox” on Fulbright published earlier this year in Foreign Affairs – and which Bobbitt read to directors at the board meeting. of July when they adopted their resolution.

King, a UA graduate, said in an email Friday that he was not involved in the college’s new insight into Fulbright’s life and career.

“I have no problem with the [overview] the title of the site, because it’s a fairly common phrase that has probably been used by others as well, ”King said.

Randall Woods, Fulbright biographer and prominent AU history professor, said in a telephone interview that he was not consulted about the preview.

“I thought it probably would have been appropriate,” Woods said on Friday afternoon. He said he had not read what was posted online.

Woods hailed Fulbright’s stance against the Vietnam War as courageous, but also criticized Fulbright when it comes to civil rights.

“I don’t want it to be ignored. I don’t want it to be erased,” Woods said of Fulbright. “I want him to be remembered. I want his story told, but I want it told in its fullness and complexity.”

Thomas, who asked if the full text of the online preview would make it to physical display – altogether about 1,360 words, not including the “Other Resources” section – said he “would expect, because space limitations when working with physical signage, that more information will be included online than near the statue ”, with a digital code or link included on the signs to direct them to the resource in line.


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