hall of fame for great americans

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is an outdoor sculpture gallery located on the grounds of Bronx Community College in the Bronx, New York City. “It is the first hall of fame in the United States. The hall was Completed in 1900 as part of the University Heights campus of New York University, the 630-foot (192 m) stone colonnade half-encircles the university library and houses 98 bronze portrait busts of a number of prominent Americans. Designed by architect Stanford White, the Beaux Arts structure was donated by Helen Gould, and was formally dedicated on May 30, 1901. New York University (under severe financial distress) was forced to sell the campus in 1973 to the City University of New York and it became Bronx Community College. Though the Hall’s renown has itself faded, its architecture remains, and it stands as a secular national shrine not just to great men and women, but to Roman ideals of fame favored at the beginning of the 20th century”.(Wikipedia) When the Hall of fame opened in 1901 it was considered to be an important tourist attraction. Visitors would take day trips to its “panoramic spot” atop one of the highest points in New York, which is a very nice spot overlooking the Harlem River, the same heights from which the “British drove the Americans out of New York during the Revolutionary War”(2). NYU Chancellor Henry MacCracken (originator of the Hall of Fame) thought that, it was very important to use this spot as a “pantheon to honor great Americans”(3). According to an article on Wikipedia, “MacCracken (wanted to make sure that the people included in the Hall of Fame were truly famous, not just memorable and so he established a board of electors, composed of men and women who were themselves possessed of some measure of renown, “ostensibly people of great character and sound judgment”(4). To ensure that nominees would be evaluated with adequate “sobriety and perspective”(5), it was decided that no one could be elected who had not been dead for at least twenty-five years. Everyone thought that was just fine; after all, as the old “maxim” holds. The Hall is a “breezy neo-classical colonnade”(6) with a vaulted ceiling wrapped around the back of two college halls and a library. Bronze busts of the honorees line the low walls on either side. Beneath them are large bronze tablets, originally designed by the “Tiffany Studios”, providing the person’s name, years of birth and death, and some noble quote associated with him or her – but there are no information about who they were, or why they were so great which is one of the things that got me confused when I first visited the place. According to an article from the New York university archives, “To be eligible for nomination into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, a person had to have been a native-born or naturalized citizen of the United States, deceased for 25 years (since 1922; from 1900 through 1920, a nominee had to be dead only 10 years) and must have made a major contribution to the economic, political, or cultural life of the nation”(7) .The hall hosts representatives of a majority of 15 classes which include: politicians and statesmen, authors and editors, business men, inventors, missionaries and explorers, philanthropists and reformers, clergymen and theologians, scientists, engineers and architects, lawyers and judges, musicians, painters and sculptors, physicians and surgeons, soldiers and sailors, teachers and distinguished men and women outside of these classes. Some of the nominees that played important roles in the country that are part of the classes listed above are: “John Adams (born on October 30, 1735 -July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States, from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain and served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history, including his wife and adviser, Abigail. His letters and other papers serve as an important source of historical information about the era”(8). The second person on my list is “George Washington Carver who was an American agricultural scientist and inventor. He actively promoted alternative crops to cotton and methods to prevent soil depletion. He was the most prominent black scientist of the early 20th century. While a professor at Tuskegee Institute, Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes as a source of their own food and to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. Although he spent years developing and promoting numerous products made from peanuts, none became commercially successful. Apart from his work to improve the lives of farmers, Carver was also a leader in promoting environmentalism. He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP. In an era of high racial polarization, his fame reached beyond the black community. He was widely recognized and praised in the white community for his many achievements and talents”(9) .Third on my list is Lillian D. Wald “(Born on March 10, 1867 – September 1, 1940) was an American nurse, humanitarian and author. She was known for contributions to human rights and was the founder of American community nursing. She founded the Henry Street Settlement in New York City and was an early advocate to have nurses in public schools. After growing up in Ohio and New York, Wald became a nurse. She briefly attended medical school and began to teach community health classes. After founding the Henry Street Settlement, she became an activist for the rights of women and minorities. She campaigned for suffrage and was a supporter of racial integration. She was involved in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Forth on the list is, Harriet Elisabeth Beecher Stowe (Born on June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. She came from the Beecher family, a famous religious family, and is best known for her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), which depicts the harsh conditions for enslaved African Americans. The book reached millions as a novel and play and became influential in the United States and Great Britain, energizing anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. Stowe wrote 30 books, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters. She was influential for both her writings and her public stances and debates on social issues of the day”. (10)On the other hand, Busts of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson were ordered to be removed from the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in August 2017 by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. These men were considered to be Racists and people claim that they didn’t deserve to be part of all the other men and women at the Hall of fame. According to a post on twitter by Andrew Cuomo at the time he mentioned that “Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson will be removed from the CUNY hall of great Americans because New York stands against racism.” He also mentioned in another post that “There are many great Americans, many of them who are worthy of a spot in this great hall. These two confederates are not among them” which make me think of People like William Edward Burghardt Du Bios who was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor. “Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a relatively tolerant and integrated community, and after completing graduate work at the University of Berlin and Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology and economics at Atlanta University. Due to Du Bois’s contributions in the African American community he was seen as a Black elite that supported eugenics for blacks. Du Bois was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.Before that, Du Bois had risen to national prominence as the leader of the Niagara Movement, a group of African American activists that wanted equal rights for blacks. Du Bois and his supporters opposed the Atlanta compromise, an agreement crafted by Booker T. Washington which provided that Southern blacks would work and submit to white political rule, while Southern whites guaranteed that blacks would receive basic educational and economic opportunities. Instead, Du Bois insisted on full civil rights and increased political representation, which he believed would be brought about by the African American intellectual elite. He referred to this group as the Talented Tenth, a concept under the umbrella of Racial uplift, and believed that African Americans needed the chances for advanced education to develop its leadership”(11)Booker T. Washington who was an “American educator, author, orator, and advisor to multiple presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African American community known as a Black elite. Washington was from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants. They were newly oppressed in the South by disenfranchisement and the Jim Crow discriminatory laws enacted in the post-Reconstruction Southern states in the late 19th and early 20th centuries”. (Wikipedia)

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