The Whispering Wall has been fenced in as it awaits modifications following the Board of Visitors’ June decision to rededicate the wall and remove its inscription.
The purpose of the fence is to secure the bench and fountain, according to University Communications. The wall was vandalized twice in the same week last April with words including “You can’t silence us” and “BLM.”
University spokesperson Wes Hester said the fence will be painted dark green soon — the fence is meant to surround the memorial only temporarily while the University reviews options for a replacement stone. More details on the new stones and the design should be finalized in the coming months, University Communications said, with completion expected around summer 2022.
“My guess is that they did that to keep students from making spray paint demonstrations against what the wall stands for,” said Minority Rights Coalition Chair Abena Appiah-Ofori, a third-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Completed and dedicated in 1938, the memorial was designed by Edmund Campbell, the dean of the Architecture School at the time, and is located by Monroe and Newcomb Hall. Though it was originally named the Frank Hume Memorial Wall, it received its more popular nickname — the Whispering Wall — for its ability to carry sounds from a speaker on one side to a listener on the other. The Board voted in June to change the official name of the memorial to the Whispering Wall.
The controversy of the memorial is based on its inscription, which is a dedication to a Confederate soldier and politician from Virginia. The dedication reads “a memorial to the honorable Frank Hume — a devoted Virginian who served his native state in Civil War and Legislative Hall.”
Students have called for the complete removal of the memorial, including a petition with over 2,000 signatures and an open letter to the University from the Minority Rights Coalition that identifies the Whispering Wall as a “reminder of U.Va.’s racist, Confederate past.”
The Board first approved a recommendation to either rededicate or remove the Whispering Wall in 2020 and it delegated this decision to the Naming and Memorials Committee. The committee concluded that the name of Frank Hume on the memorial represents “support for slavery and inequality,” but complete removal was not necessary because Hume’s sons, both alumni of the University, funded the building of the memorial, not Hume himself.
The Whispering Wall will be included in the University’s digital contextualization project, which will document the history and story of memorials at the University.