The maxim, which was added to the barracks interior during the 1953-1954 academic year, will remain. But the words “Stonewall Jackson,” which sit right under the quotation and imply he wrote them, will be scrubbed. Although Jackson apparently kept the phrase in a notebook of inspirational quotes, he did not author the saying. Two other men, William Alcott and the Rev. Joel Hawes, included the quotations in publications in 1834 and 1851, according to the college. A plaque attributing the remark to them will be installed in the barracks archway, and the sign will also note that Jackson included the saying in his book of maxims.
The college’s board also voted to strip Jackson as the namesake for the campus’s memorial hall and one of the arches leading into the barracks. The board said it will decide about the possible new names of the arch and memorial hall at its meeting in September.
The board’s decision comes as the 182-year-old college has endured a significant amount of public criticism in recent months from students and alumni who have alleged the Lexington, Va., campus suffers from systemic racism. After The Washington Post published a story in October chronicling a host of disturbing incidents in recent years at VMI, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) ordered an independent investigation into the school.
Shortly after Northam’s announcement, the college’s longtime White superintendent resigned. Since then, the college has been making swift reforms: In November, the school appointed its first Black leader, retired Army Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, who graduated from VMI in 1985, as its interim superintendent. The next month, the school removed a 108-year-old statue of Jackson that sat outside the student barracks and that students and alumni had been protesting. Then, in April, the college’s board appointed Wins as its full-time superintendent, the 15th in the school’s history.
The college, though, still has on its campus a large number of memorials and iconography linked to the Confederacy.
Two prominent visuals commemorate the college’s cadets who fought and died for the South in the Battle of New Market on May 15, 1864.
One is a statue called “Virginia Mourning Her Dead,” which depicts a female figure clad in chain mail resting her foot on a broken cannon, holding her head downward in sorrow and gripping a lance in her left hand. Many of the remains of the New Market cadets are buried in the foundation of the monument, which also bears the names of the cadets.
On Saturday, the Board voted to extend the monument’s tribute to all cadets and alumni killed in combat. About 600 VMI cadets or alumni have been killed in the line of duty, according to college spokesman Bill Wyatt.
Another New Market tribute is a large oil painting depicting VMI cadets charging across the battlefield. The Board on Saturday decided to keep it hanging in the memorial hall and later add more context to the artwork with a display nearby.
As for Stonewall Jackson, the school hasn’t quite gotten rid of him entirely.
According to the school’s website, VMI gives out annual awards in his namesake: “Jackson-Hope” medals are presented annually to “the two most distinguished graduates of the Institute,” and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Award, which was established in 1957 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, is given to the “first standing graduate” in the physics curriculum.
Those awards, though, might be altered. The college committee reviewing the school’s Confederate iconography is just getting started, Wyatt said.
“Although highly intelligent, he could not convey the concepts to students,” VMI’s website says. “This inability, along with his humorless demeanor, soon branded Jackson as an unpopular faculty member, one who was the target of many student pranks.”