New Banner Above Columbia University's Butler Library Pays Homage To Female Writers Of Color

The names of Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston will stand alongside notable philosophers like Aristotle and Plato for the entire semester.

Butler Library Banner
Photo Credit: Twitter

| October 04 2019,

1:55 pm

There’s Herodotus, Plato and Aristotle. And then there’s Ntozake, Zora and Maya. 

After a failed yet passionate protest at Columbia University organized by its graduates 30 years ago, the institution now says it’s ready to acknowledge the resonance of canonical female authors. 

According to New York Daily News, in 1989, Laura Hotchkiss Brown and her friends attempted to mount a 140-foot banner above the engraved names of philosophers at Columbia’s Butler Library. However, their efforts were thwarted when security arrived and confiscated their banner. 

Fast forward to 2019, and the school is now reconsidering Brown’s revolutionary gesture by resurrecting the banner that includes the names of Maya Angelou, Diana Chang, Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange and Gloria E. Anzaldúa. 


“It’s been 100 years since the core curriculum was introduced and 30 years since the first student group came together to protest Butler and Columbia’s elevation of white men,” an opinion piece in the Columbia Spectator authored by the Butler Banner Project stated. “The examination and reconfiguration of our institutional values are long overdue.”

Organizers of the project and senior administrators and leaders on campus are working together to address the issue of diversity and inclusion at the university. 

"The exhibition prompts exciting and important questions about who we are as a University community, what our sources of knowledge are, and how we interact with our campus environment," Suzanne Goldberg, executive vice president for university life, said in a statement.

"We look forward to working with the Libraries and others to convene campus conversations on these issues, together with our University Life Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging."

“[These women] come from every walk of life and write about topics ranging from queer theory to Black motherhood,” the organizers stated on the project website. “Women, especially those from marginalized identities, are often left out of the Western canon, along with the complex and important themes they write about.”

Butler Library was built in 1934 and is the largest of the university’s libraries. The banner will reportedly remain above the library for the entire fall semester.




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