Duke University trustees decided Saturday to remove the name of Julian Carr, a noted white supremacist, from one of its classroom buildings, a decision that President Vincent E. Price hopes will be “a positive step towards the realization of Duke University’s goals and aspirations.”
The trustees’ decision to rename the building that bore Carr’s name since 1930 comes after a recommendation from Price and a university committee, according to a statement from the university.
The university has made other decisions to remove divisive historical figures from campus buildings. In August, Price said a space at Duke Chapel will remain vacant where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee once stood to “provide a powerful statement about the past, the present and our values.”
As for Carr, Price called his legacy at Duke “complicated.” He was a philanthropist and was “instrumental in sustaining the school during its early years.” He served on the Board of Trustees of Trinity College, which was later renamed Duke University. In 1890, Carr gave 62 acres of land to develop the school, the university said.
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But Carr also was an “active proponent of white supremacy throughout his adult life,” according to Saturday’s statement from Duke University.
“(The) white supremacist actions that Carr pursued throughout his life, even when considered in light of the time in which they were held, are inconsistent with the fundamental aspirations of this university, and removing the name will be a powerful statement that lifts up our values as a diverse and inclusive institution,” the committee wrote.
Carr, the namesake of Carrboro, is commonly associated with Silent Sam, the recently toppled Confederate monument at UNC. In an often-cited dedication speech in 1913 at the statue, Carr recounted a story from around the time he returned from the Civil War, saying he “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds.”
Pressure had been mounting on Duke to take action. Last fall during an alumni weekend, protesters interrupted Price’s speech to a group from the Class of 1968. They issued 12 demands, including renaming the Carr Building, which houses the history department.
Last month, 143 alumni of Duke’s history department joined the movement to rename the building.
For now, the three-story building will be renamed the Classroom Building, the name originally given to the East Campus building, Duke said. In an email to the Duke community, Price said other names have been considered as replacements, but that the trustees will continue to study the names, “along with other meaningful ways to honor their legacies.”
The trustees have recommended that a display inside the newly named building detail Carr’s history with the university in its proper context, including his “complex legacy,” according to a statement.
The Carr name has already been removed from another edifice in Durham — a building at the Durham School of the Arts. There’s also a Carr Building at UNC.
Some have called for the town of Carrboro to change its name. The town board has commissioned a panel of residents to examine Carr’s history and notoriety. They are expected to recommend language for a plaque to be placed in town that will acknowledge Carr’s racist legacy.
The removal of the Lee statue came after it vandals damaged it, chipping his nose and other parts of his face.
In 2015, UNC trustees decided that Saunders Hall would become Carolina Hall, removing the name of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan leader that been on the building since 1920, according to The News & Observer.
Staff writer Jane Stancill contributed to this story.