The name of reputed Ku Klux Klan leader William Saunders vanished Thursday at UNC-Chapel Hill, when new signs were installed on the former Saunders Hall.
Signage for the newly named Carolina Hall appeared just in time for the start of the fall semester.
The makeover came after the Board of Trustees voted in May to remove the Saunders name, after months of controversy and pressure from student activists. Calling the action a comprehensive solution, trustees also passed a 16-year freeze on the renaming of other buildings and launched an effort to curate UNC’s history with accurate markers and educational context.
How much did it cost?
The sign changes cost the university $12,500. A urethane composite panel with “Carolina Hall” was placed over the Saunders Hall-carved limestone piece.
Why Carolina Hall?
A student group had pushed for the building to be named Hurston Hall, in honor of African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston. Other names were suggested. Trustees said Carolina Hall was a unifying choice.
Who was Saunders?
Saunders (1835-1891) was a UNC graduate and colonel in the Confederate Army who later became North Carolina secretary of state and editor of an important compilation of the state’s Colonial-era records. While no primary documents prove Saunders’ membership in the KKK, historians and the 1920 Board of Trustees declared that he was.
Why was the name changed?
Some argued that the building name wrongly honored white supremacy and hurt African-American students. Others said erasing the name would be a whitewash of history and a missed opportunity for education about racism and the university’s history.
Have other universities renamed buildings?
In February, East Carolina University decided to remove from a dormitory the name of former N.C. Gov. Charles B. Aycock, who espoused white supremacist views. Last year, Duke University removed the Aycock name from a building.