At some schools, students can learn about black history by going to the library.

At Mississippi Valley State University, reminders of important black figures, past and present, also are visible on campus street signs.

From national figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. to former MVSU night watchman Willie Gray, the names give a sense of history.

The idea for renaming the streets came up in conjunction with the school's 50th anniversary celebration in 2000. The official renaming ceremony took place in April 2001.

Some white leaders, such as former House Speaker Walter Sillers, already had been honored in the names of buildings, and the new names broadened the spectrum, said Roy Hudson, vice president for university relations.

"We think it's a good mixture," Hudson said. "It shows the diversity and multiculturalism of the institution."

The street names honor some people connected primarily with MVSU and others known on the state or national level. Previously, some of the streets were named for Mississippi counties or other things.

MVSU President Lester C. Newman had one request - that the street entering the campus be called Valley of Scholars Boulevard. After that, a committee including faculty and staff members and alumni was assembled to suggest other names.

Newman asked attorney Carver Randle, a 1965 Valley graduate and a development specialist for the school, to lead the committee.

The group held several meetings, discussed potential names, and asked for input from the community before submitting a draft list to Newman and the Executive Committee, Randle said.

Randle said the committee wanted each name to be "someone who contributed to the university or society in general."

Some of the national leaders were obvious choices.

Indeed, many cities had streets named after King, but Valley did not. So his name was selected to adorn one of the major perimeters - along with Parks, famous for refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, and Fannie Lou Hamer, a longtime activist for blacks' voting rights.

"When you talk about naming streets, right away there are some names that come to your mind," Randle said.

Another of those would be Medgar Evers, the civil-rights activist who was gunned down in 1963 and is immortalized on Medgar Evers Street.

Another name of national prominence appears on Ralph Bunche Lane. Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his work as a mediator in Palestine.

Jake Ayers and Alvin Chambliss, both key figures in the Ayers desegregation case, have their names on streets as well.

Other state figures honored include Mike Espy, former Congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary; legislators such as David Jordan, Robert G. Clark Jr. and Ferr Smith; Aaron E. Henry, a former state president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; and Katie Hall, a Valley graduate who worked with Hamer and went on to serve in Congress.

Randle said he hopes these names raise some awareness in students who might not know about their contributions. For example, he said he has heard a number of them say they didn't recognize Hall's name or know she graduated from Valley.

Then there are other names that those close to Valley identify with the school in special ways, Hudson said.

Among these are Ruby Johnson, an MVSU graduate who was active in the alumni association; Russell Boone, a former band director; Lemmie Taylor, one of the first custodians; and William Copeland, a former cafeteria dietitian.

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