Va. University Drops Racist Composer's Name from Building

September 20, 2010

Radford University is renaming one of its arts and music buildings, originally dedicated to a Virginia composer who was an influential white supremacist.

The Board of Visitors on Friday voted unanimously to strip the building of John Powell's name. Provost Joe Scartelli says that since Powell and Porterfield halls are connected, the Powell name would be removed and the entire building renamed Porterfield Hall.

The vote came five years after Radford history professor Richard Straw and his class uncovered Powell's deep involvement in drafting Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which barred interracial marriage. Scartelli told The Roanoke Times that the issue was forgotten in the midst of plans to renovate Powell and Porterfield, which have since been scrapped.

Radford named the building after Powell in 1967, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the act.

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