By Julissa Catalan
On Monday, Duke University President Richard H. Broadhead announced to student leaders that Aycock Hall—a building named in honor of white supremacist Charles Brantley Aycock—will be renamed.
The freshmen dorm, which has been known as Aycock Hall for over a century, will now go back to its original name of East Residence Hall—the name for the dorms back when Duke University was called Trinity College.
The news of this campus update comes after years of student protest, including a Duke Student Government resolution, which supports the name change. This was passed six months ago, and was backed by the DSG as well as the Black Student Alliance.
“The building was named early in the twentieth century on one view of history, and that view of history no longer prevails,” Brodhead said. “Given the circumstances, it seems a good time to change the name.”
Charles Brantley Aycock was a leader of the white supremacy movement in the early 1900’s when he was also a governor.
In fact, he was known as the “education governor,” aiming to improve North Carolina’s schools, which were then at a major decline.
By the end of his tenure, 690 new schools had been built—599 for whites and 91 for Blacks.
But more so, Aycock was known for his prominent role as a supremacy leader. According to historians—during Aycock’s term—this included mass violence as well as voter intimidation and fraud. Blacks were given literacy tests prior to being allowed to vote.
According to vice president of government relations and public affairs, Michael Schoenfeld, the name change is effective immediately, adding that when the Class of 2018 receives their housing assignments this week, East Residence Hall will be listed rather than Aycock for the first time in more than a hundred years.
A plaque will also be place in the entrance of the hallway, detailing the name change and the history behind it.
“We’ve given this careful thought. One argument is that history is history, and we can’t change it by erasing,” Brodhead said. “But I don’t regard this as an erasure.”
In addition to the residence hall, Aycock’s name is on multiple buildings on other campuses including UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
There is also a statue of him in the Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall.
Currently, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill also petitioned to have a KKK leader’s name removed from a school building last month.
UNC at Chapel Hill is one of the oldest public universities in the south.
The campaign Rename Saunders—which also promoted the hashtag #KickOutTheKKK—aimed to eliminate the name Saunders from a school building named after KKK Grand Dragon William L. Saunders.
The school board’s decision is still pending.