Black figures hung from trees outside SC campus building named after ‘violent racist’
Tillman Hall at Winthrop University (Photo: Screen capture)

Art students have accepted responsibility after black figures were found hanging in the trees at Winthrop University this weekend. The figures were black nylon stockings that were stuffed with dirt and mulch and spray-painted. A piece of white paper with the words "Tilman's Legacy" was also taped over the original sign of the building.

According to WBTV, police opened an investigation when 18 figures were found outside of Tillman Hall on Sunday. It's named after Benjamin Tillman, who was a white supremacist known for supporting lynchings and shootings. He was also known as "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman.

Students informed officers that they didn't see anyone in the area and didn't notice when the figures appeared.

University officials weren't sure initially who was responsible. In a strong statement sent Sunday, they said, "While we do not know the intent of this display, these images are clearly hurtful and threatening and are contrary to the values of Winthrop University."

However, a group on campus has claimed responsibility, calling it "art."

"Art challenges one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth. Arousing our emotions, expanding our sympathies in directions we may not anticipate and may not want," says a statement from the Association of Artists for Change. "Tillman's Legacy, is a work which aims to disrupt the aesthetic veil the building has, eliminating the ability to forget the eighteen men who were lynched during Benjamin Tillman's years in office."

The group wondered why people question the art exhibit when no one questions the name associated with the building. "One should question, why this artwork is offensive and not the building itself?" the statement continued. "The building, named Tillman Hall in 1962, in response to the Civil Rights Movement, to incite fear toward prospective students of color."

Such a thought-provoking exhibit is aimed at garnering a reaction from those viewing the installation. "The strong imagery forces a disruption and makes the truth unavoidable. The work is intended to incorporate the willing and unwilling into a dialogue about the building and its history," the group explained. "This work came after the election. The climate made the fear of deportation, detainment and a repeat of history apparent."

Many have called for the building name to be changed and it has been vandalized before, twice in 2015. In July someone wrote "violent racist" in red paint on the portrait of Tillman hanging in the building. Another vandal spray painted "Rename Tillman Hill" across the front of the building.