Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
GWU’s Francis Scott Key Hall may face name change

Among a list of building names George Washington University has collected for study and review is Francis Scott Key Hall.

Key is the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

But the private, Washington D.C.-based university has received a request to rename Francis Scott Key Hall and it will consider whether to scrap the moniker at some point in the future, according to its Name Change Request Registry.

University officials did not respond to repeated requests from The College Fix over the last week asking about the nature of the complaint or complaints against Francis Scott Key Hall and whether students or faculty asked for it to be reviewed.

Complaints have also been made against Fulbright Hall, Madison Hall, Monroe Hall of Government, the Churchill Center and the William P. Barr Dean’s Suite, the university’s Name Change Request Registry website states.

“At this time, the Colonials Moniker is under consideration,” the website states. “When a final decision is issued, the university will consider other requests on the Name Change Request Registry.”

Late last month, George Washington University officials announced they will strip the name of Cloyd Heck Marvin, its longest serving president, from a central campus building after the renaming committee determined Marvin was too racist to keep his name on it.

As for Francis Scott Key Hall, it was dedicated in 1940. Today it hosts co-ed apartment-style housing for first-year students.

Historically, GWU has named halls “for individuals associated with the Washington area and distinguished in American thought and culture,” according to a news release at the dedication of seven buildings in 1967.

In general, Key has faced increasing scrutiny over the last five years because of his position on slavery.

First, critics point to his personal slave holdings and slavery advocacy while district attorney. Others balk at a verse of his Star Spangled Banner, which states “No refuge could save the hireling and slave.”

Glenn Johnston, chair of Humanities and Public History at Stevenson University, has a nuanced interpretation.

During Key’s life, “you will see that slave and hireling were each used in a pejorative fashion to describe free people carrying out the wishes of a more powerful person,” Johnston wrote.

For example, a different poet from the time period used the same words to describe the British soldiers at Bunker Hill. Johnston argued the phrase may also refer to escaped slaves who fought with the British during the American Revolution.

In addition to GWU housing, the name of Francis Scott Key Elementary School in San Francisco has raised concerns.

MORE: GWU to strip name of its longest-serving president from campus building

IMAGE: Andrea Izzotti / Shutterstock

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.

About the Author
Alex McKenna -- Franciscan University of Steubenville