There will soon be a new stop on the Texas A&M campus tour. If all goes according to plan, the university will erect a statue of Matthew Gaines in front of the new Student Services Center in the middle of the College Station campus. Gaines was a former slave, then a state senator and, perhaps most importantly for A&M, one of the driving forces behind the land grant program that made institutions like A&M possible
Erica Pauls is a senior political science major at A&M, and she’s president of the Matthew Gaines Initiative. She told Texas Standard that Gaines’ statue is decades in the making.
“I think the big difference is, the reason why this specific group, we were able to succeed with this, is that we had support from the administration. I don’t know if other groups had the same level of support,” Pauls said. “This has been in [the] making for a really long time. We’re just a group that was able to cross it to the finish line.”
The most recent push for a Gaines statue began in 2017 when student government passed legislation allowing the statue project to go forward. Then, the newly established Matthew Gaines Initiative got to work raising $350,000 through donors with ties to A&M.
Pauls’ group recently chose the sculptor, and they’re in the design phase now. She expects the statue to be completed by the end of the year. It will be erected near one of the busiest parts of campus.
“We’re really excited that we got an opportunity to have it somewhere where a lot of people will be passing by,” Pauls said.
She says completing this project sends an important message to the A&M community, and the public, about who can make history. She says the history books often make it seem like people who “look like me” didn’t play important roles in the past. But Gaines is one of many people who’ve proven that’s not true.
“We don’t think of people that look like me; we don’t think of Black individuals, people of color,” Pauls said. “And so to be able to highlight that and show that there were a lot of pioneers in the past that were such change-makers that may not necessarily look like what we think history-makers look like, it’s just, it’s so great to be able to show people that.”