Tulane removes ‘Victory Bell’ from McAlister, cites symbol’s connection to slavery

bell

Shahamat Uddin | Senior Staff Photographer

The view from McAlister Drive where Tulane's 'Victory Bell' once stood.

Sanjali De Silva, Senior Staff Reporter

As students made their morning commutes to class on Thursday, something distinct was missing from the familiar route: the McAlister Victory Bell. The bell was removed today after a discovery from a Tulane staff member was shared with President Fitts that the iconic campus symbol was originally a plantation bell.

According to the email, historical archives confirmed that the bell was made in 1825. For enslaved Africans who were not given their own pocket watches or clocks to check the time, the bell was used to communicate daily schedules. It was then brought to Tulane in 1960-61.

President Mike Fitts and Board of Tulane Chair Doug Hertz formally announced the news in an email this morning.

“As an academic institution, we believe it is important to find a way to use this bell to further our knowledge and understanding of slavery and pursue a more just society,” Fitts and Hertz said in the email.

The decision to remove the bell was determined by Fitts and the bell has been moved to storage as the presidential commission continues to investigate its exact history.

The bell was a prominent symbol of Tulane used to celebrate basketball games and class commencements. The symbol was also featured on photographs across campus, including a large image on a stairwell of the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life. That image has already been replaced with an image of Crawfest, another Tulane tradition.

A special committee including students, faculty, alumni and staff will decide what will replace the bell’s spot in front of McAlister Auditorium.

“In doing so, we hope to establish a new tradition that truly represents a victory for all,” the email read.

In May of 2019, a college at the University of Cambridge similarly removed a bell they suspected to be linked to slavery. In light of their discovery, The University of Cambridge began a two-year study on how their institution benefited from the slave trade.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated the decision to remove the bell came out of the Presidential Commission on Race and Tulane Values. The decision was made by President Fitts after the discovery was shared with him.