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Naming and Memorials Committee to host listening session on Frank Hume Memorial

The committee will take community input into consideration when deciding the future of the memorial

The monument consists of a marble fountain and a wall with the inscription “a memorial to the honorable Frank Hume — a devoted Virginian who served his native state in civil war and legislative hall.”
The monument consists of a marble fountain and a wall with the inscription “a memorial to the honorable Frank Hume — a devoted Virginian who served his native state in civil war and legislative hall.”

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The Naming and Memorials committee is hosting a listening session on the future of the Frank Hume Memorial Fountain Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. to give University community members the opportunity to share their input on the next steps the University should take regarding the statue. The committee is hoping to make a recommendation on the future of the memorial by the next Board of Visitors meeting in June and will be taking these public comments in account during that decision-making process.

“Thoughtful comment from the U.Va. community is genuinely important to the Committee,” said Michael Suarez — Committee chair, English professor and executive director of the Rare Book School — in an event statement. “We want to afford the community with as many opportunities to share feedback — whether through oral comment at this listening exercise or written feedback on our website — as possible.”

The Frank Hume Memorial Fountain, also known as the Whispering Wall because of its ability to transmit sound from one side of the wall to the other, was erected in honor of Frame Hume — who enlisted in the Confederate Army at age 18 and worked as a soldier and spy during the Civil War before serving in the Virginia House of Delegates.  Two of his sons — John Edmund Norris Hume and Howard Hume, who both attended the University — donated funds to the University for the memorial, which was officially dedicated in 1938. 

The monument is located near Newcomb Hall and Monroe Hall and consists of a marble fountain and a wall with the inscription “a memorial to the honorable Frank Hume — a devoted Virginian who served his native state in civil war and legislative hall.” 

The Naming and Memorials Committee was created in February to make recommendations for the naming and contextualization of statues, monuments and buildings on Grounds, which are then sent to University President Jim Ryan and the Board of Visitors for review.  The eight-member committee is chaired by Suarez, and its members include Corcoran Department of History chair Claudrena Harold, Kevin Gaines, Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice, and Board of Visitors student member Mazzen Shalaby, among others. 

Early Monday morning, red paint was found sprayed across the surface of the wall, and the wall has since been covered by tarps. According to University Spokesperson Brian Coy, the graffiti will soon be removed, and as with any act of vandalism on Grounds, the University will be investigating the incident. 

The Board of Visitors approved resolutions in September 2020 to contextualize the Thomas Jefferson statue, remove and relocate the George Rogers Clark statue, rededicate or remove the Frank Hume Memorial Wall, rename the School of Education and Human Development and remove Henry Withers’ name from the name of Withers-Brown Hall. 

In response, the Minority and Rights Coalition launched a petition and letter campaign in February calling for the immediate removal of the Frank Hume Memorial Fountain rather than a rededication.

“The structure will always serve as a reminder that the racist ideals upheld by the Confederacy are also ideals the University is proud to preserve,” the MRC said in the open letter to the University.

Members of the community can register beforehand and a call-in number and passcode will be emailed to all registered participants prior to the event. Callers can be placed in an operator-moderated queue for timed public comment or simply listen to the session, which will be recorded for review by the committee. Community members have three minutes of speaking time. Those who wish to submit a comment prior to the event can do so through the committee’s website.

The committee hopes to make a decision about the memorial by the Board of Visitors meeting in June.

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