Students push to rename Jenkins Hall
HUNTINGTON — As the conversation nationally continues on the merit of monuments and other dedications to Confederates, a Marshall University student organization is leading a charge to rename a building on campus named for a Confederate general and slave owner.
Students for a Democratic Society at Marshall will host a discussion on renaming Jenkins Hall beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, in Harris Hall Room 135.
“Before SDS, nobody was really talking about the history of Jenkins Hall. So often I hear in opposition that we’re wanting to destroy/get rid of history, but in fact we want to highlight history,” said John Ross, SDS president. “We want to bring history to the forefront and have a conversation about how that history isn’t always good and how to address the past to make for a better future where white supremacy is authentically called into question.”
Housing the College of Education and Professional Development, Jenkins Hall is named for Cabell County slave owner and Confederate Gen. Albert Gallatin Jenkins. Jenkins’ plantation off W.Va. 2 in Green Bottom still stands today and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Jenkins family owned more than 50 slaves who worked the farm.
Jenkins attended Marshall Academy, later attending Harvard Law. He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives before leaving his seat when the Civil War started. Jenkins was elected captain of a volunteer company of riflemen from Cabell and Mason counties. He converted the
members of the company into cavalrymen, gave them the name “Border Rangers” and arranged for their enlistment in the Confederate Army.
He briefly left the field to serve in the First Confederate Congress but returned to duty when he was promoted to brigadier general. He led a battalion of cavalry at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he was wounded. He eventually died in 1864 after being severely wounded and captured during the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain. He’s buried in the Confederate plot at Spring Hill Cemetery in Huntington.
It is for that history that the members of Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, want to change the name of the building.
“The Jenkins Hall campaign isn’t just about the name of a racist memorialized in a building; it’s about having a conversation about who we choose to honor as a campus and a community,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting will include a discussion about Jenkins’ history and the origin of the building’s name, along with strategies and tactics to have real conversations about a name change, not just bickering, Ross said.
“We are not lobbyists or politicians. We want to have good conversation,” he said.
Ross said his group does not have alternative names for the building, but believe people of color should have a discussion on what to rename the building.
“I’m white and just don’t feel I’m the best candidate to come up with a better name,” Ross said. “The goal of SDS is to spark a conversation on this topic. Personally I’d hope to see the building named after a person of color, perhaps someone involved with K-12 or higher education.”
SDS took their concerns to Marshall administration at the end of the last school year and in response, President Jerome Gilbert created a committee to look into the names of the buildings on campus.
The committee, chaired by board of governors member Christie Kinsey, has been meeting regularly and a report is anticipated in the near future, said Leah Payne, director of communications for the university.
Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.