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College students take aim at 19th Century editor's statue

Some Georgia State University students are demanding that Atlanta's mayor remove a prominent statue of Henry Grady from downtown Grady was a newspaper editor who advocate, seen Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, in Atlanta. Grady was a newspaper editor who advocated for a "New South" after the Civil War, but the students say he was a racist. (AP Photo/Jeff Martin) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ATLANTA, GA – Some Georgia State University students are demanding that Atlanta's mayor remove a prominent downtown statue of a 19th Century newspaper editor who called for maintaining white supremacy in the South.

Henry Grady was a newspaper editor who advocated for a “New South” after the Civil War. A plaque on the statue, which was erected in 1891, describes him as a patriot.

But Grady also campaigned against equality for freed slaves, saying “the supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever."

“Let us be clear in recognizing that Grady, as a journalist, promoted racism,” several student groups wrote in an editorial Tuesday in Georgia State's student newspaper. “Grady, as an orator, promoted racism. And Grady was certainly no patriot -- he was simply a racist."

They want the statue relocated to the Atlanta History Center, but if Georgia law won't allow that, they'll accept a new marker explaining Grady's beliefs.

Representatives of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday from The Associated Press.

Grady's name is featured prominently on high-profile Georgia institutions such as Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and the University of Georgia's journalism school. In biographies in Georgia, Grady is often described with glowing praise and the views he espoused about black people are often omitted.

On Grady Health's website, for instance, he's described as a man who “worried about the lack of healthcare for Atlanta's poor” and had an “extraordinary dream" of helping them.

At the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, the college's website describes him as a legendary Atlanta journalist and “child of the Civil War” who “often spoke and wrote about the need for the region to shift from an agricultural economy rooted in slavery to an industrial economy rooted in education."

Grady’s own speeches, though, tell a different story.

“The supremacy of the white race of the South must be maintained forever, and the domination of the negro race resisted at all points and at all hazards – because the white race is the superior race,” Grady said at the Texas State Fair in 1887.

This declaration, he then added, “shall run forever with the blood that feeds Anglo-Saxon hearts.”

The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication “was named in recognition of Grady for his work as a leading journalist in Georgia," Dean Charles Davis said in a statement Wednesday. “Today it is widely recognized as one of the nation’s finest colleges of journalism and mass communication."

One of Atlanta's public schools, Henry W. Grady High School, is also named after him. In 2016, students there wrote an editorial in the school's newspaper calling Grady a white supremacist. They called for the name to be changed, suggesting their school be named after someone else, such as former President Jimmy Carter or civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis. But Grady High's name remains today.