COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M students have long been advocating for a memorial of Texas Senator Matthew Gaines, an African American politician who advocated for racial justice in the 1800s, and who was instrumental in securing the land grant for what would become the Texas A&M campus in College Station.
“It wasn’t until, I think, 2017 that the Student Government Association, along with other entities, passed resolutions in support of creating an organization which would work on [creating a statue]; and having the university work on this as well," said Erica Pauls, Texas A&M student and president of the Matthew Gaines Society. "The Matthew Gaines Initiative – now the Matthew Gaines Society – was created.”
The student group recently acquired the $350,000 in funding needed to commission a Gaines statue for campus.
Many donations, including those from the university's president and chancellor, stemmed from donors' desire to create positive change following George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor's deaths in 2020.
“During [that] time, we used it basically as a time to let people know of the Matthew Gaines Initiative; to let people know that [making donations] is a way that you can support diversity on our campus," Pauls said.
Now, a team of two artists have already been selected and commissioned to create a life-sized statue.
Due to the pandemic, the statue’s public reveal has been delayed, originally set for this spring semester.
But, according to Pauls, students can expect to see it looking out over the Simpson Drill Field by the end of 2021.
The university has already designated a spot along the south side of the new Student Services Building as the location for the statue.
Pauls said she hopes that just as other statues on campus have elicited traditions from students, visiting Gaines’ statue will become an important staple in the Aggieland student experience.
“I think a lot of times when people think of the history makers and the change makers, it’s not people that look like me," Pauls commented. "So I think that’s what we’re doing through the Matthew Gaines project is highlighting that people of color, women and other marginalized communities can make history.”
The Matthew Gaines Society plans to reveal the identities of the artists commissioned for the statue in the near future, and hope to organize an unveiling celebration later this year.