It was way back in 2013, on a bright October afternoon, when a new residence hall was given a name: Louis L. Redding Hall. For most college students (including today’s freshmen) buildings were named long ago for someone they know little about. We don’t stop to think about the historical significance of place names, we just live our daily lives going to class in one building and returning home to “the dorm.”
Why do names matter anyway, other than to tell people where you are going? Because in many cases, college buildings are not named for wealthy donors or alumni, but named with purpose and intent to educate or remind us of a significant person or historical event. On that bright October afternoon I witnessed my first dedication ceremony when the drape was pulled down revealing the name Louis L. Redding.
Here’s what I learned that day: Louis L. Redding was a real person with children and grandchildren. He was the first African American admitted to the Delaware Bar and spent much of his life fighting for civil rights. He challenged segregation laws in housing and public schools, and argued two cases that eventually joined four others to become Brown vs. the Board of Education, which brought down the concept of “separate, but equal” across the United States. But here’s the kicker: he was not a UD alumnus. In fact, he was not allowed to be a UD student at all. Louis L. Redding lived segregation before he started fighting it, and because of his tireless work, the University of Delaware was court-ordered to admit black students in 1950.
The Honors College is proud to call Louis L. Redding Hall our home for first year students. He fought for the rights of marginalized people – and I wonder what he would think about the unrest in our country today. We expect Honors students to be open-minded, have respectful conversations, and appreciate diversity in all forms. And you know what? Redding was an Honors student too – he earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University with Honors before going on to Harvard Law School.
Next time you happen to be in Redding, perhaps during move-in this year, check out the shadow box near the elevators on the first floor to read more about Louis L. Redding.
Program Coordinator, Honors College
If you want to read more before you come to campus, check out these resources:
UDaily Article from the Dedication Ceremony
Delaware Bar Association Article on the Civil Rights Pioneer