University of Miami to cancel band hall's name in mistaken belief of racism by benefactor
Recently, the executive committee of the University of Miami Board of Trustees of the University of Miami announced that the university would "cancel" the name of a major benefactor to its Frost School of Music.
[T]he executive committee voted to rename the rehearsal hall at the Frost School of Music to honor an individual whose accomplishments reflect the values of the University and whose life epitomizes a personal commitment to the institution.
The hall was named after Henry Fillmore, who used patently offensive language and images to promote his music. His most prominent work — the success of which led to his renown and likely the naming — was full of racist caricatures that amounted to dehumanizing Black people.
Henry Fillmore's estate for many decades has financially supported the U.M. band program, including the physical plant, needed supplies, expenses, and financial aid to countless band students (without regard to race, creed, color, or religion).
Apparently, no one with personal knowledge of Henry Fillmore was consulted. There are some living people who had close relationships with or knowledge of Fillmore, including 89-year-old William A. Clark, a highly respected band director and recipient of the Band of the Hour Alumni Association's Hall of Fame Award, who could have enlightened the "committee" on truths in the matter. He wrote in a recent letter to the Univ. of Miami president, Julio Frenk, and the Board of Trustees:
I would like to state that in all the times I personally knew Henry I never heard him make a derogative statement about the Black race or a Black individual. On the other hand, in the times he recounted his work with an all Black Florida high school band, he always gave the highest complimentary remarks.
But the committee unilaterally made a decision to cancel the long-named Fillmore Hall (home of the U. of M. Band of the Hour), without investigation or notification to anyone who would be affected. They did this based on two highly controversial opinion articles by a retired professor of music, Douglas Yeo. In his articles, Yeo notes activities that he participated in as a "trombone consultant" but doesn't give names or attributes to the supposed schools and fellow musicians that he claims support him in canceling the "Trombone Family" of musical compositions by Henry Fillmore.
Among other historical references, Yeo ignores the fact that "Ragtime" music started in the brothels of St. Louis, while "Dixieland" music was conceived in the brothels of New Orleans. Bands entertained the "guests" there while they waited for their turn. It's a known historical fact that the barker's call, "Get J'ass!" in those establishments became the name of the improvised music played there which evolved into jazz. For many decades now, jazz is a highly respected art form, known as America's greatest contribution to the musical arts world. And jazz has no color!
The truth, which was ignored, is that Henry Fillmore was not at all racist, honored black musicians that he taught and associated with, and that (given the time period in the early 1900s) the publisher may have been the "culprit" — that the publisher was using methods and constructs of that time period in the marketing of Fillmore's music. It had nothing to do with Fillmore's personal beliefs or actions. Not to mention, his trombone music compositions are just plain musical fun!
For a society to progress, it needs to have a story — history — so that it has a basis on which to build, so that it can learn from its mistakes. To tear down that history is, frankly, an element of revolution. That theory states that the past must be destroyed (and history rewritten) so that the "new" system can progress unencumbered.
It is a tragic and anti-intellectual endeavor to cancel history at a whim without viewing the historical context from which something was conceived and existed, to look at a shallow, one-sided story of something unilaterally determined is "needed to be canceled" (erased). Cancel culture is a sad commentary on another of our society's current ills: "progressive" indoctrination in education.