UNC-Chapel Hill asking for new names for buildings named for white supremacists

Demonstrators protesting buildings named for slave owners and white supremacists on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill.

Last year UNC-Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees lifted the self-imposed moratorium on renaming buildings on campus, allowing the school to address decades of pressure from students, faculty and community members to replace the names of slave owners and white supremacists. Now, the school is looking to rename three buildings before students return for the Fall semester in August.

In a message to the campus late last week, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz issued an open call for new names.

“We have previously received names for consideration which are included in our Honorific Naming Registry and we invite you to submit additional names,” Guskiewicz said. “We will keep this process open for a two-week period, closing the registry at 5 p.m. on April 9. The committee will receive all submitted names and conduct an initial vetting process to narrow a list of possible options to six names for consideration. I will consider those names for submission to our Board of Trustees.”

Guskiewicz laid out criteria for the new names, saying they should:

  • Represent the values that define our University: excellence and an unwavering commitment to teaching, research and public service.
  • Have traditionally been underrepresented on our landscape.
  • Have a demonstrated positive impact on our campus and in our community.

 

The buildings at issue are the Aycock Residence Hall, the Carr Building and  the Daniels Building.

The Aycock Residence Hall was named for Charles B. Aycock, the white supremacist governor of North Carolina from 1901 to 1905. In his famous speech “The Negro Problem” Aycock set out his explicit segregationist and white supremacist views.

“I am proud of my State…because there we have solved the negro problem,” Aycock said. “We have taken him out of politics and have thereby secured good government under any party and laid foundations for the future development of both races. We have secured peace, and rendered prosperity a certainty.”

The Carr building was named for Julian Carr, a UNC alum and industrialist who supported the Ku Klux Klan and celebrated lynchings, including the 1898 Wilmington Massacre. Carr gave a speech at the 1913 installation of the Silent Sam Confederate monument on the UNC campus in which he bragged he once “horse-whipped a negro wench” in public for disrespecting a white woman and praised Confederate soldiers for saving “the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South.”

The Daniels building, which houses a student store, was named for Josephus Daniels.Daniels, a former publisher of Raleigh’s News & Observer newspaper, was a prominent white supremacist who used the paper’s influence to promote racist policies. Infamously, he stoked racial hatred that helped lead to the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, in which white supremacists killed at least 60 Black Wilmington residents while overthrowing the town’s elected mixed-race government.

Last year Daniels’ family voluntarily removed his 8-foot statue from its place in Nash Square in downtown Raleigh, where it overlooked the former News & Observer building.

“This is an exciting time for our University as we celebrate and remember the people who have pushed our University forward by serving its people and our mission,” Guskiewicz said in his message. “In doing so, we are taking concrete steps to build our community together. I am grateful for the students, faculty and staff who have advocated for change. I am confident that we will have plenty of worthy honorees who have been instrumental in our shared history.”

Policy Watch will continue to follow the renaming process for these and other buildings on UNC System campuses.

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Asheville City Council votes to remove monument to racist Gov. Zebulon Vance

The Zebulon Vance memorial in downtown Asheville. Photo by Billy Hathorn, used under a Creative Commons license.

 

The City of Asheville will remove a 75-foot monument to Zebulon Vance, the racist Confederate-era North Carolina governor, from the center of its downtown area.

As reported by the Citizen Times newspaper, the council voted 6-1 Monday to remove the controversial statue.

“Personally, I’ve come to believe that the Vance Monument no longer reflects, it probably never reflected, the values of our community,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer.

Vance was governor of North Carolina twice — during the Civil War era from 1862 until his arrest by federal forces in 1865 and again from 1877 to 1879. The state legislature elected him to serve in the U.S. Senate from 1880 to his death in 1894.

He was a slave-owner and avowed racist some historians believe was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, though he publicly denounced the group. He did famously write that Black people had the “”putrid stream of African barbarism” running through their veins.

A number of North Carolina communities have removed monuments to racist figures and the Confederacy over the last five, part of a national trend. Some more conservative communities continue to refuse to do so, citing a state law protecting such “objects of remembrance” and prohibiting their removal except under very specific circumstances. Some monuments, such as the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument at UNC Chapel-Hill and some in downtown Raleigh, were toppled by protesters when those communities were prevented from legally removing them. In both those cases, the General Assembly declined to have the statues re-erected as prescribed by the monuments law.

 

Further reading on Wyatt Outlaw, NC history and the cost of white supremacy

If you’ve already read today’s Policy Watch special report on the 1870 lynching of Wyatt Outlaw and its connection to the modern problems in Alamance County, you may want to read more.

Today’s piece is the first in a Policy Watch series on Alamance County that will include pieces on local government, the sheriff’s department, public schools and environmental justice.

But our initial story on Wyatt Outlaw and  the history and continuation of white supremacy in the state would not have been possible without the scholars and activists who spoke to us for the piece and the work they’ve already done. All of it is worth your time.

If you were intrigued by what  Duke University’s Dr. William Darity had to say about systemic inequality and the racial terror campaigns designed to preserve it, you should read  From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, Darity’s recent book with co-author A. Kirsten Mullen.

Dr. William Darity.

The Rev. Ervin Milton  talked with us about modern Alamance County and the connections to story of Wyatt Outlaw. He is a regular contributor at the Burlington Times-News. His columns, including this week’s on the meaning of Lent,  can be found here.

The Rev. Ervin Milton.

 

Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards, a developmental psychologist and assistant professor of Medicine at Duke, helped us with a closer look at the psychological aspect of white supremacist thinking and the cycle of violence it has perpetuated throughout our history. Her paper, How Does it Feel to be a Problem? The Missing Kerner Commission Report, is essential reading.

Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards.

For a deep dive into the life, death and legacy of Wyatt Outlaw, you need to read Dr. Carole Troxler’s “To look more closely at the man”: Wyatt Outlaw, a Nexus of National, Local, and Personal History She is a historian and professor emerita at Elon University whose work on the Outlaw story is widely considered definitive.

Dr. Carole Troxler.

ICYMI: A conversation about race, mass incarceration and criminal justice reform in North Carolina (Full video)

By all indications, North Carolina and the nation at-large have entered a critical and, perhaps, hopeful phase in their centuries-old conversations about race, crime, punishment and the undeniable links between them.

If you missed it this week, Policy Watch hosted a powerful conversation via Zoom exploring where things stand, how we got to this place, and where we ought to be headed.

The event featured a candid discussion between Satana Deberry, District Attorney of Durham County and Dawn Blagrove, executive director of Emancipate NC, a nonprofit advocacy group that works to dismantle structural racism and mass incarceration.

Our thanks to both DA Deberry and Blagrove for sharing their insights.

Click here to view the entire presentation.

Please watch and then share this special presentation.