NC schools rename buildings, remove statues with racist ties

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As North Carolina colleges and universities confront their historic ties to racism and white supremacy, many are taking steps to make their campuses feel safer for students of color.

Schools have renamed academic buildings and dorms, removed statues and changed song lyrics that honor racist individuals or ideas that celebrate The Confederacy. Universities have made changes over the past several years, but the Black Lives Matter and racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 added pressure and a sense of urgency to their efforts.

Here is a list of actions colleges and universities across North Carolina that have taken action to address these issues on campus.

Sign installer Roger Phillips of Broach Custom Signs in Wendell, NC carefully places the second and last urethane panel into place for the new Carolina Hall nameplate Thursday afternoon, August 13, 2015 covering the old Saunders Hall name on the UNC-CH campus. After an outcry over the personal history of the 19th century UNC alumnus William L. Saunders the university decided recently to change the name to Carolina Hall, removing all vestiges of the old name. Harry Lynch [email protected]

UNC-Chapel Hill

In 2015, trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill voted to remove William Saunders’ name from a campus building. Saunders was a trustee of the university who was the leader of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina during the 19th century. The trustees voted to rename the building Carolina Hall.

In voting to remove Saunders’ name from the building, the trustees also approved a 16-year moratorium on future building renamings. The moratorium stood until 2020, when the trustees lifted it.

In December 2021, university trustees voted to rename two campus buildings that previously had names that “honored individuals tied to white supremacy and racism,” The News & Observer reported. Aycock Residence Hall, previously named for former North Carolina governor and white supremacist Charles B. Aycock, was renamed McClinton Residence Hall, in honor of Hortense McClinton, the first Black professor hired at the university. The university’s Carr Building, named for the university trustee who gave a racist speech at the dedication of the Silent Sam Confederate statue on campus in 1913, was renamed for Henry Owl, a Cherokee who became the first person of color to enroll at the university in 1928.

“Silent Sam,” a Confederate statue, stood on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus from its dedication in 1913 until protesters tore it down in 2018. Once the statue was torn down, questions arose over what to do with it, as state law prohibited the statue from being removed.

The university in December 2018 suggested building a $5 million education center on campus to house the statue, but the recommendation was rejected by the UNC System Board of Governors. In January 2019, as she announced her resignation, Chancellor Carol Folt authorized the pedestal base and commemorative plaques of the monument to be removed intact.

In November 2019, the university negotiated a $2.5 million settlement with the Sons of Confederate Veterans to take and keep the statue off campus, The N&O reported, but the controversial deal was later voided by a judge.

NC State University

Trustees at NC State University voted in 2020 to remove from a campus building the name of Josephus Daniels, a white supremacist and former News & Observer publisher who used the newspaper to incite fear of Black residents and political leaders.

“Daniels also helped orchestrate the 1898 race riot in Wilmington that overthrew an elected mixed-race government and resulted in the killings of at least 60 Black residents,” The N&O reported.

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson recommended at the time that the building not be immediately renamed, The N&O reported.

Earlier this year, in February 2022, the university’s trustees voted to remove the word “Dixie” from the school’s alma mater. NC State students, faculty, staff and alumni expressed concern that the term, which is tied to the Confederacy because it was an anthem for the Confederate army, was “contrary to NC State’s vision, values and goals,” The N&O reported. The word was replaced with the word “Southern” in the first line of the song.

Duke University

Trustees at Duke University voted in 2018 to remove from a campus building the name of Julian Carr. In 1890, Carr, a white supremacist, gave the school 62 acres of land to develop and had previously served on the board of trustees for Trinity College, which later became Duke.

Before the 2018 Carr decision, the university had previously removed a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Duke Chapel, The N&O reported at the time.

Duke University’s Board of Trustees voted Dec. 1, 2018 to rename Carr Building the Classroom Building. Duke University

NC Central University

Trustees at North Carolina Central University, a historically Black university in Durham, voted in 2019 to remove from the school’s main administrative building the name of former North Carolina Gov. Clyde Hoey, who “supported a segregated system of education,” The N&O reported. The building was renamed the James E. Shepard Administration Building, for the university’s founder.

East Carolina University

In 2015, trustees at East Carolina University in Greenville voted to remove from a campus dorm the name of former North Carolina Gov. Charles B. Aycock, who “who espoused white supremacist views,” The N&O reported. The N&O reported at the time that Aycock’s name would still be preserved in Heritage Hall, “a soon-to-be designated location in another campus building, where founders and other university supporters will be recognized.”

“We believe that Aycock’s legacy to education will be better served represented in the overall history of ECU in Heritage Hall … In this place, Aycock and others can be recognized with an appropriate explanation of his or her contribution and connection to the university’s history,” a statement from the university’s trustees said at the time. The dorm originally named for Aycock was renamed Legacy Hall in 2016.

WIlliam Peace University

In 2022, William Peace University, a private college in Raleigh, removed a campus statue of its namesake. A campus task force found that William Peace was a slave owner and believed its presence “could create a divisive environment on campus.”

Meredith College

In 2022, Meredith College removed James Yadkin Joyner’s name and portrait from an academic building as part of an anti-racism initiative. Joyner served as a trustee at Meredith for decades and was “an advocate for white supremacy and unequal funding for schools based on race,” according to the college.

Louisburg College

A Confederate monument sat outside the predominately Black Louisburg College, with students passing by it regularly, until the town of Louisburg moved it into storage in 2020. The monument was later placed in nearby Oakwood Cemetery, where Confederate soldiers are buried, The N&O reported.

Did we miss one? Let us know.

This story will be updated as schools continue to make these changes.

This story was originally published April 6, 2022 3:19 PM.

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Kate Murphy covers higher education for The News & Observer. Previously, she covered higher education for the Cincinnati Enquirer on the investigative and enterprise team and USA Today Network. Her work has won state awards in Ohio and Kentucky and she was recently named a 2019 Education Writers Association finalist for digital storytelling.
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Korie Dean is a reporter on The News & Observer’s service journalism team. She is a graduate of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at UNC-Chapel Hill and a lifelong North Carolinian.


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