UNC-Chapel Hill is removing the names from four campus buildings that honor individuals who are tied to white supremacy and racism.
The campus Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to remove the names of Charles B. Aycock, Julian S. Carr, Josephus Daniels and Thomas Ruffin Sr. from their respective buildings and residence halls.
These men “occupied high positions of influence and public trust” and used that power against Black people, according to the university’s Commission on History, Race & A Way Forward, which made the recommendation to remove the names.
“Together, they fought to disenfranchise black men and to establish the regime of Jim Crow, which for more than half a century denied black North Carolinians equal justice and the fundamental rights of citizenship,” the commission said in its resolution.
“Aycock, Carr, Daniels and the elder Ruffin were not simply men of their times,” the commission says in the resolution. “Instead, they wielded power, wealth, and influence to define the historical moments in which they lived.”
The commission provided evidence to support its recommendation, which was presented to trustees.
An appointed renaming committee used that background information to investigate the request and create a report for UNC-CH Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. The renaming committee included UNC students, faculty, alumni, trustees and administrators. Guskiewicz reviewed the committee’s report and submitted a formal request to the board for approval.
The board voted on each name separately and did not vote on the removal of Thomas Ruffin Jr., for whom the Ruffin Residence Hall was also named. Trustees said there was not enough information about the younger Ruffin to approve the removal.
Each vote was 11-2 with John Preyer and Allie Ray McCullen voting against the removal of the names.
The board also voted to approve temporary names for each building.
The Aycock dorm will be renamed Residence Hall 1, the Daniels building will be renamed the Student Stores building, the Carr building will be the Student Affairs building and Ruffin dorm will keep that name, but signage will be changed inside and on the exterior to indicate it is named for Thomas Ruffin Jr.
Racist history of UNC buildings’ namesakes
The four buildings were all named after men who “used their positions to impose and maintain violent systems of racial subjugation,” UNC history professor and commission co-chair Jim Leloudis said at a meeting earlier this month.
- Aycock Residence Hall was named after former North Carolina Gov. Charles Aycock, a UNC alumnus who led the white supremacy campaign of 1898 that “condoned the use of violence to terrorize black voters and their white allies,” according to the commission’s report. Aycock embraced “White Supremacy and Its Perpetuation” as the guiding principle of his political career and was a “principal architect of the regime of Jim Crow,” the report says.
Other North Carolina universities — including Duke, East Carolina and UNCG — have also removed the Aycock name from campus buildings.
- The Carr building is named after former trustee Julian S. Carr who funded the construction for the building, which used to be a dorm. Carr helped finance the Democratic Party’s white supremacy campaign of 1898, which “stripped black men of the right to vote and institutionalized racial segregation,” according to the commission’s report.
He also used violence to suppress Black citizenship, supported the regime of Jim Crow and was a self-proclaimed “proud” member of the Ku Klux Klan, the report says.
Carr also gave a racist speech at the dedication of the Silent Sam Confederate statue that stood on UNC’s campus for about a century until it was torn down by protesters in 2018. He gave hundreds of other speeches to promote a censored history of the Civil War and Confederate history in education, according to the report.
Duke University removed Carr’s name from a campus building in 2018.
- The Daniels Building, which houses the UNC Student Stores, is named after former News & Observer publisher, former UNC trustee and lifelong white supremacist Josephus Daniels.
Daniels helped shape the strategy for the Democratic Party’s white supremacy campaign of 1898 and 1900 and used The News & Observer as a “propaganda arm of the party and used political cartoons and sensationalist reporting to demonize Black voters and politicians as a threat to whites,” the report says.
With the help of Aycock in 1898, Daniels rolled back reforms that would give Black North Carolinians political and social equality and established the system that would become known as Jim Crow.
“What followed was a vitriolic and violent campaign to restore white rule,” the report says.
N.C. State University and a Raleigh middle school recently removed the Daniels name from buildings. A statue of Daniels in downtown Raleigh was also removed in June.
- The dorm Ruffin Hall is named after former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice and UNC trustee Thomas Ruffin Sr. and his son Thomas Ruffin Jr., a UNC alumnus.
The elder Ruffin used his legal authority to give slave owners absolute power and normalize the violence in slavery, going against established case law according to the commission.
“Among legal scholars, his ruling in State v. Mann is known as ‘the coldest and starkest defense of the physical violence inherent in slavery that ever appeared in an American judicial opinion,’” the commission says in its resolution.
Ruffin personally enslaved 135 men, women and children in North Carolina who were “worked to death” and “whipped mercilessly,” according to the commission’s report. He also invested in and profited from the domestic slave trade.
New policy for more name changes at UNC
Earlier this month, the UNC board adopted a policy for renaming campus buildings and public spaces. These four buildings were brought up at that meeting.
According to the policy, a potential name change must come through a written request that outlines the specific conduct of the namesake that “jeopardizes UNC’s integrity, mission or values” and the harm caused by honoring that person, The News & Observer previously reported. A committee that includes UNC leaders, students, faculty and alumni will investigate the claims and create a report for the chancellor to review and then submit to the board for approval.
The policy was crafted after the board lifted a 16-year moratorium on renaming places on campus, particularly those honoring people with ties to racism or white supremacy. That decision came after nationwide protests, including at UNC-CH, against police brutality and systemic racism, as well as pressure from online petitions and protests from students and faculty.
The university’s Commission on History, Race & A Way Forward, which recommended these four buildings be renamed, plans to make additional requests in the future.
One building on campus, Hamilton Hall, has already been unofficially renamed by the chairs of the Departments of History, Political Science and Sociology, and the Peace, War, and Defense Curriculum who work in that building. The group said the building’s namesake, Joseph Grégoire de Roulhac Hamilton, helped shape the university for the benefit of white supremacy.
A new banner is hanging on the building naming it “Pauli Murray Hall” to honor Murray, a Black descendant of one of the university’s original trustees, who was denied admission to a UNC doctoral program based on her race. The group asked the commission to consider a permanent change.
Students and faculty have identified about 30 places on the Chapel Hill campus and The Race, History and A Way Forward commission’s report noted several buildings and dorms named for “slave owners, Confederate officers, Klansmen, and avowed white supremacists.”
That list includes Battle Hall, Pettigrew Hall, Vance Hall, Swain Hall, Phillips Hall, Steele Building, Grimes Residence Hall, Mangum Residence Hall, Manly Residence Hall, Manning Hall, Murphey Hall, Saunders Hall (which has been renamed), Spencer Residence Hall, Aycock Residence Hall, Bingham Hall and Graham Residence Hall, which were all named in the 1910s and 1920s.
The names of those buildings and spaces could be changed under this new policy.