Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire, like many other Southern whites in the 19th century, thought blacks were inferior. He wanted to study “the sexual perversion in the negro.”
McGuire, who had been a Confederate medical officer and Stonewall Jackson’s personal surgeon during the Civil War, later founded medical schools that became part of VCU’s Medical College of Virginia, where a bust of him stands inside McGuire Hall, which is named in his honor.
Following the violence in Charlottesville, potential symbols of white supremacy at VCU are now under review.
Amid a renewed examination of the ties between Confederate imagery and white supremacy and slavery, VCU President Michael Rao is directing administrators to conduct an audit of symbols “of an exclusionary nature” on the school’s campuses.
Senior administrators will consult with faculty, students and the community to conduct a comprehensive review, Rao said in an email to students and faculty Wednesday evening.
The review will include a discussion about “what the future of any such items may be,” he wrote. “This includes statues, plaques, building and facility names and other honorific symbols. We will also be looking at applicable policies and procedures.”
Rao said the process would be guided by a commitment to inclusion, free speech and civil discourse.
He also wrote that campus police are working closely with other law enforcement agencies on issues of campus security and the impact of possible protests following the violence Aug. 11 and Aug. 12 in Charlottesville.
“Students and their parents, faculty and staff have expressed concern about the impact of national and regional protests and especially the focus on Confederate symbolism given Richmond’s history as the capitol of the Confederacy,” Rao’s email said.
From 1893-94, McGuire was president of the American Medical Association.
McGuire in 1893 co-authored an open letter titled “Sexual Crimes Among the Southern Negroes.”
He wrote: “In the South, the negro is deteriorating morally and physically; and, as the American Indian, the native Australian, the native Sandwich Islander, and other inferior races, disappear before the Caucasian, so the negro, in time, will disappear from this continent.”
McGuire asked for “some scientific explanation of the sexual perversion in the negro of the present day.” He went on: “During the days of slavery, insanity was very uncommon among the negro race. Now, our large asylums are not capacious enough to hold the insane negroes of both sexes.”
The words look shocking today, but in 1893 — within an era of lynchings and racial terror toward blacks — McGuire’s views were not uncommon. His statements on race were “squarely within the mainstream of his time,” historian Gregory M. Dorr told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 2001.
A bronze statue of McGuire stands on Capitol Square. The Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center is named after him. In 2001, civil rights leaders discussed possibly removing McGuire’s name from the VA hospital.
Ravi Perry, an associate professor of political science at VCU, said the audit shows the university’s commitment to examining its role in white supremacy.
“I think it’s very important for us to do this review,” he said. “I would recommend that every university and college in the commonwealth of Virginia do the same thing.”