Happy Saturday morning, folks. Bill is home again from his latest business trip. He brought me flowers and candy, in part because I was in a noticeably bad mood on Thursday night during our nightly chat. In fact, I was in such a pissy mood that I went on YouTube and covered “Can’t You See” by the Marshall Tucker Band. The lyrics are for a man singing about a mean woman, but I changed them to a feminine perspective.
Naturally, I was kind of kidding. Bill isn’t a mean man at all. Sometimes, he’s just a little clueless, as we all are at times. I was upset because I wasn’t feeling well, and I was stressing about the idea of seeking local medical care before it turns into an emergency situation. Being home alone in a foreign country, not knowing much about accessing the healthcare system, is stressful. Yes, I know how to call 112, but I’d like to avoid doing that if I can. He thought I was just upset because he was out of town. And instead of asking me what was wrong, he made small talk about a topic I didn’t care about at all. I realize I should have been more direct with him, but I was home alone and feeling kind of crappy and depressed. I just wanted him to ask me if I was okay… or even a simple “Why are you being so bitchy?” But he wanted to talk about some people from Kazakhstan he met who had moved to Germany. I couldn’t have cared less.
When he brought me the pretty red carnations and Lindor Truffles, I put the flowers in water and we cleared the air. I explained to him why I was so short tempered and ended our chat early. I just plain wasn’t feeling well and was upset about the prospect of doing something about it. The insistence on making small talk was pissing me off. Adding insult to injury was the fact that I had a cold this week that turned out to be very minor. It was over in a matter of three days, which is shocking to me. He kept harping on the cold, telling me he’d be making me chicken soup and hot toddies. I kept telling him the cold wasn’t a big deal, and still he went on about it. Meanwhile, I have this annoying dull cramping in my abdomen that doesn’t hurt, but really bugs. I had told him about it before, but he was still focused on my vanquished cold. The argument is over now. Maybe my next cover will be a Rick Astley number. Don’t be surprised if I try it.
So… what about today’s title?
I was thinking about writing a more serious post today about a topic that sort of relates to my current source of angst. But then I decided I’d rather not… simply because yesterday’s post was so gruesome. So I’m going to address something I noticed the other day on my alma mater’s Facebook page.
Longwood University is a public institution in Farmville, Virginia, founded in 1839. The high rise buildings at the end of the double rainbow were recently renovated such that they really no longer resemble the buildings they were when I was a student at Longwood from 1990-94. Below is a photo from the era when I was a Longwood student. I lived in Frazer for my first week at Longwood, but then had to move because of the roommate from Hell. I’ve written about that in this blog, for those who care.
Judging by the way this photo is positioned, I think the picture was taken facing campus. That would mean the building on the left is Frazer, and the building on the right is Curry. When I arrived at Longwood, they were considered the most “modern” of the dormitories, as they had air conditioning. None of the other residence halls had AC, which was no fun during Virginia summers. They were built in 1969-1970, I believe, so they were just slightly older than my age. 😉
In his description of this photo, tommy wrote this:
Curry and Frazier Residence Halls
Longwood College, Farmville, VA
These 10-story, high-rise residence halls are named for Dr. J.L.M. Curry, who drafted legislation for Longwood to become Virginia’s first Normal School for female teachers in 1884, and Dr. Robert Frazier, president of Longwood from 1897 to 1902.
Like a lot of people, tommy misspelled the name “Frazer”. But he uploaded his photo in 2006, when Curry and Frazer still existed. Today, those two buildings are very different looking. A few years ago, Longwood totally renovated them, right down to their skeletons. And now, they are known as Moss and Johns. Why? Because the men behind the names Curry and Frazer did things that are no longer considered honorable. And the people behind Moss and Johns are local civil rights heroes who have done a lot for the community. Three years ago, the buildings got their new names to go along with their brand new makeovers, but old habits die hard.
I’m going to be honest. It’s hard for me to think of those buildings as anything but Curry and Frazer. However, given that they no longer resemble the old Curry and Frazer, except for the fact that they’re ten stories high, I don’t think it’s wrong that the names were changed. They really aren’t the same buildings anymore. In fact, I read an article about the renovations and was SHOCKED by the photos of the interior, which show how beautiful they are now. I can tell you, having lived in Frazer for a week, the old buildings were very sterile and utilitarian. The new ones are absolutely gorgeous.
If you know anything about Longwood University, and Prince Edward County, Virginia, you know that the area was particularly problematic during the civil rights era. In 1951, local student Barbara Johns, whose name now graces one of the renovated residence halls, and had moved to Prince Edward County from New York, organized a student led walkout at Robert Russa Moton High School in Farmville to protest its overcrowded conditions and poor facilities for Black students. With legal help from the NAACP, students at the Moton School filed Davis v. Prince Edward County , which was the lone student initiated lawsuit that was later rolled into the historic Brown v. Board of Education case, a 1954 Supreme Court case that declared “separate but equal” public schools unconstitutional.
In 1959, locals in Prince Edward County closed public schools for several years to avoid integration. A private school named Prince Edward Academy was opened to educate white kids, and when I arrived at Longwood in 1990, it was still open… but on its last legs. In 1992, former resident and businessman J.B. Fuqua infused a large donation of cash into Prince Edward Academy so that it wouldn’t go under. It’s now called Fuqua School, and is no longer reserved for white kids. But, check out what Wikipedia has in its article about Fuqua School (when it was still known as Prince Edward Academy):
In a 1982 interview with the Los Angeles Times, headmaster Robert Woods said that the school had an open admissions policy, but that no blacks had been admitted since they were less intelligent than whites. Woods added that the school did not “teach segregation or integration” because that was “for the parents to do”.
1982 wasn’t really that long ago…
Nevertheless, I distinctly remember arriving at Longwood in 1990 and hearing about Barbara Johns and the Moton School. I sat in Jarman Auditorium with lots of other freshmen taking the then mandatory “Longwood Seminar” course (which I think is now defunct) and listened to several local Black leaders speak about the special civil rights history from Farmville, which I had not heard of in high school. I do remember learning about Brown v. Board of Education— I think it was in a high school sociology class, of all things. But no one ever educated me about what was going on in Farmville in the 1950s… not until I went to Longwood as a college freshman.
As for Dr. Gordon Moss, he was a faculty member at Longwood in the 1950s and 60s who was instrumental in supporting civil rights in Farmville and Prince Edward County. Dr. Moss taught history from 1944-1969. My late aunt was a student at Longwood in the 1940s, graduating in 1948, just before the name changed from State Teachers College to Longwood. I wonder if she knew Dr. Moss. Anyway, Dr. Moss was very outspoken in the 1950s and 6os about the need to reopen the schools in Prince Edward County and support justice and equality for everyone.
So yeah… Johns and Moss are certainly worthy of being honored. But who were Curry and Frazer? Well, they were both men who promoted education, which certainly makes them notable, especially at a college where so many great teachers are trained. Jabez Curry advocated for developing public education in Virginia and the rest of the South. But he was also a member of Confederate Congress. As for Dr. Robert Frazer, he was a former university president for a few years when Longwood was known as Female State Normal School, back in the late 19th century. And he was also a Confederate soldier when he was a young man.
Virginia has recently made a lot of progress toward moving beyond the Confederate era. That includes taking down lots of monuments that celebrated Confederates, changing some names, and promoting more progressive attitudes. Plenty of people are still mired in the past, though, and they stubbornly resist change, even when it makes them look ignorant on many levels. Such is what I noticed on Facebook, when that beautiful photo of Moss and Johns was posted. There were many comments from people arguing that those high rise buildings will ALWAYS be Curry and Frazer to them.
Below is a sample of the comments left by alums who refuse to evolve:
OHHHH you mean CURRY AND FRAZIER!>>>>>???????
soooooo Does RE writing History make folks TODAY actually feel better????? LIVE better????
I have so many thoughts but don’t want to be in FB jail.
I lived in Frazier. It will always be Frazier. When you keep changing names people have no attachment to them.
Yep. And if there’s nothing familiar, why would I ever visit? Or make an alumni donation?
I lived in Frazier, too.
Rainbows over Curry and Frazier
That would be Curry and Frazier
Curry and Frazier…
It will always be Curry and Frazier !
And it goes on and on, with a couple of snarky comments directed at those who point out that so many people keep misspelling the defunct building name they seem to hold so dear. When you realize that the majority of these folks are college graduates, or at least former Longwood students, it seems especially ridiculous. I mean, do you WANT to look ignorant, or what? How hard is it to spell the name correctly? It’s one less letter. And if you’re arguing that the name shouldn’t have changed, it really seems like you should damned sure know the actual spelling of the so-called sacrosanct name. I wonder how many people who object to being educated about proper spelling would be annoyed if people kept misspelling their own names? Doesn’t it seem like a matter of basic respect, not just for the person behind the name, but for oneself?
Some of them are also pissed because the Ruffner building– which is where the famous Rotunda is– is now just called Rotunda. Again… hard to imagine that building as not being called “Ruffner” anymore, but in light of recent progress, the change was warranted. Below is a passage from a Farmville Herald news article about the history of Ruffner:
I don’t really have any strong attachments to the old names. Longwood has changed so much since I graduated in 1994. A lot of old buildings are now gone, with brand new ones to replace them. They really needed to be demolished and upgraded, to remain competitive with other universities, and for basic health and safety reasons.. Even the Rotunda is different now. On April 24, 2001, just before Longwood College became Longwood University, the original Rotunda burned down. But even though the place has dramatically changed cosmetically, it’s still a place I hold dear in my heart.
I still have so many warm memories from Longwood, and there are even a few people still working there who remember me. I left that school with an excellent education and so many friends. I will be forever grateful. So, I’m all for progress and change for the better at Longwood– a place that, even after 184 years, is still evolving, preparing great leaders, scholars, and professionals, and doing things that make for a better world for everyone— especially the students and alums.
I’m also all for proper spelling, because I was a Longwood English major, dammit. Spelling counts sometimes, especially if you’re trying to make a successful case for honoring long dead people who fought to continue the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Think about it. You should have learned how to do that when you were a Longwood student. Or, at least, improved your skills somewhat.
By the way… Longwood is also where I started singing. You can take that as a good thing or a bad thing. 😉 However, I can honestly state that learning to sing and embracing music changed my life significantly. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity at a big school. So, for that alone, Longwood will forever be a special place to me, regardless of any name changes, renovations, new buildings, or other progress…