Propped upon the plaque at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Hall, a new sign appeared Tuesday proclaiming the building “Zora Neale Hurston Hall,” the preferred name by activists who successfully pushed for the building’s 2015 renaming.
The Hurston sign, fabricated to look like an engraved plaque, appeared on the same day that the Chronicle of Higher Education published a story on the history of the building, which was renamed Carolina Hall in 2015 after UNC trustees voted to strip the original name, Saunders Hall. That name had honored William Saunders, a 19th century UNC graduate and trustee, who also was a Ku Klux Klan leader.
UNC’s Religious Studies department, which is headquartered at Carolina Hall, posted a photograph of the official and unofficial signs, tweeting, “Something new appeared on our building today ... #hurstonhall”
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Some student activists pushed for the classroom building to be named for Hurston, the African American writer who is said to have visited classes at UNC and studied with some UNC professors, though she was not enrolled or affiliated with the university. She did teach at N.C. Central University in Durham.
Hurston Hall protest signs are nothing new at the plainly named Carolina Hall, but in the past they’ve been more along the lines of colorful paper signs taped in windows. A video posted on Twitter in January appears to show someone fabricating the Hurston plaque at a new “makerspace” at UNC known as “BeAM,” a workshop where students have access to high-tech equipment such as 3D printers to build prototypes.
The fake plaque says that the proposed Hurston name was rejected by trustees, who enacted a moratorium on building name changes for 16 years at the time of the 2015 Saunders renaming.
“We honor and remember all the African American students who studied at UNC unofficially before our university’s integration,” Tuesday’s Hurston sign said.