What to do about J. William Fulbright’s long history of active acquiescence* to white rule in the South?
Of course his name should come off UA-Fayetteville’s College of Arts and Sciences. He’s the wrong symbol, a warning sign about using intellectual ends to justify political means. And the proper replacement is also clear. I give you:
The Daisy Lee Gatson Bates College of Arts and Sciences
In 2000, the Arkansas Historical Association polled its members as to the most influential figures in Arkansas history. The first was Bill Clinton, as you would expect. Next were Orval Faubus and J. William Fulbright, and fourth was Daisy Bates.
It’s hard to argue with Bill Clinton in first place! But Daisy Bates is the logical choice for second.
Daisy Bates and those who fought with her prevailed over Fulbright and Faubus, the two faces of Arkansas segregation, the good cop with the fancy degree and the the bad cop with a year at a small, unaccredited school.
That’s second place by any accounting!
The change she and those who fought with her brought was far-reaching and touched every citizen of Arkansas, mostly for the better–and frankly, those who were made less well off by it, they mostly deserved worse.
Faubus and Fulbright both had their virtues. If you took a paring knife and cut out the racism out of both men, you could Frankenstein them into a fairly decent human being. Fulbright was a generally positive figure in foreign policy and education, and he didn’t much go out of his way to advance segregation. Faubus made significant advances for Arkansans generally. He wasn’t even-handed, but he didn’t go out of his way to keep some of the benefits he brought from falling into black peoples’ hands. Mild praise. It’s what they deserve.
Since Daisy Bates won her fight against Fulbright and Faubus, the fruits of the good things those men did can be better distributed. If she’d lost–but she didn’t, and we need to act like it. We need to put her forward as our exemplar and claim the spoils of her victory.
She didn’t have a degree because there aren’t degrees in what she did, which is changing the world for the better. If we respect the power of ideas to turn the world around, then we pay tribute to those who wielded those ideas, with or without degrees.
That said, Faubus and Fulbright deserve study. They were polar opposites yoked by location, acquiescence to racism**, and not much else. Faubus was a deeply local politician; Fulbright was a national and global figure. And they grew from the same dirt.
It’s not that different from a Sam Walton or a Don Tyson, a Jerry Jones or a John Johnson, and it’s worth studying. Thus I also give you, as a subsidiary of the Daisy Bates College (the DBC at the UAF should be a useful catch-phrase), a whole new thing:
The Fulbright-Faubus Center for Global Arkansas Studies
Every year, they flip a coin to see whose name goes first. The domain name abbreviates them to ff or f-f so it doesn’t change. And the focus of the instituted changes for the year to local or global issues, all related to Arkansas.
Let’s see if Faubus and Fulbright can actually do right by race for once.***
*I’m being nice for once.
***Third time’s a charm! And by “a charm” I mean “the fire next time”.