In 2015, the 52,000-seat football stadium in the heart of University of Maryland’s campus was renamed Maryland Stadium in renunciation of the racist and segregationist beliefs and policies of the stadium’s previous namesake Harry C. “Curley” Byrd, a Maryland football coach and university president from 1936-1954. The campaign to change the stadium’s name was student initiated, led by Colin Byrd, ’16, an African-American student, and involving student groups, including the campus chapter of the NAACP, the Black Student Union, and Greek organizations.
In April 2015, the coalition successfully lobbied the Student Government Association to submit a petition to university administration requesting that the stadium name be changed. The petition called former president Byrd a “symbol of racial hatred” and cited his stance prohibiting African-American students from enrolling in the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs—a policy that among other things prevented future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from enrolling in the University of Maryland School of Law—as well as that preventing minority students from playing on university sports teams.
Upon receipt of the student petition, university President Wallace Loh convened a work group consisting of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to weigh the implications of a possible name change. After deliberations during the Fall 2015 semester, the work group presented Loh with options for addressing the stadium name controversy, ranging from changing the stadium name outright, to adding another historical figure to the stadium’s name, to installing signs contextualizing Byrd’s opinions and actions.
Ultimately, Loh recommended the university board of regents change the stadium name to Maryland Stadium, a recommendation the board ratified by a 12-5 vote on December 11, 2015. The decision to rename Maryland Stadium was complemented by other efforts to memorialize diverse racial history at the university, including the erection of a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a Maryland native, on campus and the naming of the Art and Sociology Building after Maryland Congressman Parren J. Mitchell, the first African-American graduate of the university, who originally had been denied admission due to Byrd’s discriminatory policies.
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