UB is removing Fillmore's name - might the City of Buffalo also consider it?

Aug 5, 2020

Buffalo's Common Council President is welcoming the University at Buffalo's decision to remove the names of Millard Fillmore and two others from its campus buildings and roadways. WBFO asked Darius Pridgen: would he consider the same for buildings or streets within the City of Buffalo?

Fillmore, the nation's 13th president, was also a co-founder and the first chancellor of UB. But his presidential legacy includes his support of the Compromise of 1850, which includes passage of the Fugitive Slave Act.

A statue of former US president and Buffalo attorney Millard Fillmore stands outside City Hall. The University at Buffalo, where Fillmore served as its first chancellor, announced this week it is removing his name and two others from its buildings and roadways.
Credit WBFO/Michael Mroziak

University officials, announcing Monday their decision to remove Fillmore's name from its Academic Center, expressed a recognition of his stance as one that remains hurtful to its community, especially its Black members.

"I'm thrilled that this country, and especially Western New York, is starting to relook at names and what buildings and streets and monuments are being honored and making the necessary changes to correct history, or to tell history correctly," said Council President Pridgen.

Fillmore's memorials within the City of Buffalo include a street named in his honor and a statue of his likeness outside City Hall. Might city leaders follow UB's lead? Pridgen has no immediate plans to pursue changes but he is certainly open to conversations about it.

"I would be very open to hearing any changes that this community wants for any monument or any street in the City of Buffalo," he replied. "My door remains open."

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, during an appearance in Buffalo Tuesday, said it's up to the city to decide what it wants to do. But she welcomes UB's decision.

"Times are changing, and it's time to start acknowledging that Black lives matter," Hochul said. "And what that means is you start looking for overt symbols of racism that have been there, and ignored by the white majority for a long time, and understand that they are hurtful to people. It's not just Confederate flags. I really am excited about the promise that we're making dramatic systemic changes and it's long overdue."

In addition to Fillmore, the names of James Putnam and Peter Porter are also being removed from any buildings or roadways named in their memory. Putnam was a state senator and UB Council member who, according to university officials, also held openly racist views. Porter, a statesman and UB regent, owned slaves.