Lafayette College Updates the Concept of Civil Rights

Last fall, Lafayette College, the highly regarded liberal arts college in Easton, Pennsylvania, rededicated its Kirby Hall of Civil Rights 80 years after it first opened. The building, designed by Whitney Warren, the architect of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, houses the college’s department of government and law.

When the Hall of Civil Rights was first dedicated, Fred Morgan Kirby, cofounder of F.W. Woolworth Company, unveiled a plaque that championed the “Anglo-Saxon ideals of the true principles of constitutional freedom.” Kirby’s “civil rights” of the 1930s referred to individual rights as opposed to the idea of state control, which was taking hold in the Soviet Union. At the time, there were no black students at Lafayette College.

But now, Lafayette College has unveiled a second plaque in the building explaining Kirby’s remarks. Also, an exhibit showing a timeline of the civil rights movement was erected in the lobby to make the Hall of Civil Rights more relevant to students of today.