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Researching and spotlighting UNC’s history of honoring white supremacists

This week students and community activists at UNC-Chapel Hill celebrated the first anniversary of the toppling of the Confederate monument known as “Silent Sam.”

But students took the opportunity to expand on anti-racist efforts at UNC-Chapel Hill beyond the controversial statue — and the racial history of UNC that makes those efforts necessary.

Danielle Dulken, a PhD student at UNC-Chapel Hill, has made her full speech from the campus tour available online. It systematically lays out the history of honoring white supremacists and slave owners on campus through the naming of campus buildings and landmarks while prominent UNC personalities of the same era who were abolitionists are all but ignored.

Dulken credits extensive UNC student history research for the public history site Names in Brick and Stone , University Libraries and The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History for making her part of the tour possible.

Her speech was accompanied by students holding 28 placards with the names of slave owners and avowed white supremacists whose names adorn buildings and landmarks on the Chapel Hill campus.

From the piece:

Before going deep into examples across campus, Dulken tells the story of the former Saunders Hall, named for UNC trustee and Ku Klux Klan leader William Saunders. Rejecting calls to rename the hall for black author and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, the university instead rechristened it “Carolina Hall” in 2015. The university trustees then imposed a 16 year moratorium on renaming buildings.

Many students on campus still insist on calling the building Hurston Hall.

The moratorium, which still stands, has put UNC-Chapel Hill behind a number of other universities in addressing its racial history, Dulken said. It means that while East Carolina University and UNC-Greensboro have removed North Carolina governor Charles B. Aycock’s name from buildings on their campus in view of his leadership of a turn-of-the-century white supremacy movement, UNC-Chapel Hill has not.

Read the whole thing here.

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