US: Group recommends renaming UNC buildings over racism ties

The buildings at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill bear the names of men tied to racist practices.

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is reckoning with the racist past of men after whom four of its buildings are named [Gerry Broome/The Associated Press]
    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is reckoning with the racist past of men after whom four of its buildings are named [Gerry Broome/The Associated Press]

    A commission at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has voted to recommend the renaming of four campus buildings that currently have ties to slaveholders or white supremacists.

    The recommendation from the Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward on Friday will go to the school's chancellor, who can then decide to forward it to the board of trustees, The Charlotte Observer newspaper reported. The board, which is scheduled to meet on Thursday, is expected to discuss a policy to change the names of facilities on campus.

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    The move comes as racial justice protests have swept the United States following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in May. The movement has accelerated a national reckoning with the country's racially fraught past, with many calling for the removal of Confederate statues, as well as monuments and namesakes of prominent historical figures with racist beliefs or practices. 

    The four buildings at issue are named after men who "used their positions to impose and maintain violent systems of racial subjugation," according to history professor Jim Leloudis, who co-chairs the commission. 

    The recommendation comes after the university last month lifted a moratorium that had been in place since 2015 preventing the school from removing names on campus buildings that may be associated with slavery, segregation and white supremacy.

    Historical reckoning

    The university's Daniels Building is named after former newspaper publisher and lifelong white supremacist Josephus Daniels, while Carr Building holds the name of Ku Klux Klan supporter Julian S Carr, according to The Charlotte Observer.

    Carr gave a racist speech during the dedication of the Confederate statue on campus known as "Silent Sam," which was torn down by protesters in 2018.

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    Meanwhile, the Aycock and Ruffin residence halls are named after former North Carolina Governor Charles Aycock and Thomas Ruffin Sr and Thomas Ruffin Jr.

    Aycock led a white supremacy campaign that suppressed black voters, according to the newspaper. The elder Ruffin was the chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and enslaved more than 100 people.

    The recommendation comes after Princeton University decided to remove the name of former president Woodrow Wilson from its school of international and public affairs over his racist views and policies. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies