Renaming the math building at T. U. of Louisiana

**The following letter was delivered (Sep. 2020) to the board and senior administrators of the university on behalf of a group of graduate students and faculty in the math department, and other concerned community members.**

We, the undersigned members of the Mathematics Department and Tulane University community, call upon the senior university administration, President Mike Fitts, and his appointed Naming Review Task Force to undertake the renaming of

(1) Gibson Hall,

(2) the online university platform called Gibson, and

(3) any other monuments to Randall Lee Gibson within the university’s purview.

We make this petition with the facts in mind that Randall Lee Gibson

(1) was a slaver and sugar plantation owner in Terrebonne Parish,1 

(2) adhered to hardline beliefs in racial inequality, authored and published pro-slavery essays, ran for political office as a secessionist before the Civil War to preserve slavery in an independent South,1

(3) enlisted as a Confederate soldier upon outbreak of the Civil War, eventually rising to the rank of Brigadier General,3

(4) helped to restore former Confederates to political power in the backlash to Reconstruction and benefited from violent white terror campaigns meant to suppress black voters,4 and

(5) convinced Paul Tulane to “confine his bequest [to the university] to white persons.”4

We support the efforts of the Naming Review Task Force and President Fitts’ message that “racism has no place” on our campus, and so we insist upon the removal of all monuments to individuals aligned with slavery, racial segregation, and other forms of oppression. It is unacceptable that Tulane University continues to honor the name of a person that profited by and fought to protect chattel slavery. 

Our purpose is not to deny history, but rather to recognize it and connect its meaning to our present so that we may move beyond the moral deficiencies of our forebears.  Gibson Hall was named in honor of Randall Lee Gibson’s role as the first president of the Administrators of the Tulane Educational Fund, in which he oversaw the transformation of the public University of Louisiana into the private, exclusively white Tulane University of Louisiana. This conversion was made with explicit racialized intent through Paul Tulane’s act of donation.2

The university is much different now than it was in Gibson’s time, but its entanglement with white supremacy remains. The removal of monuments to oppressors is essential to our university’s project to become a more inclusive and equitable institution. With this aim in mind, we assert the necessity of renaming Gibson Hall.



[1] Allardice, Bruce S., and Lawrence Lee Hewitt, eds. Kentuckians in Gray: Confederate Generals and Field Officers of the Bluegrass State. University Press of Kentucky, 2015.

[2] Dyer, John Percy. Tulane: The biography of a university, 1834-1965. Harper & Row, 1966.

[3] United States Congress (1893-1894). Memorial address, and 2d session, 52d Cong. Memorial Addresses On the Life And Character of Randall Lee Gibson, (a Senator From Louisiana,): Delivered In the Senate And House of Representatives, March 1, 1893, And April 21, 1894. Washington: Govt. print off., 1894. 

[4] Sharfstein, Daniel J. The invisible line: A secret history of race in America. Penguin, 2011.