Chapel Hill, North Carolina – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning to rename two buildings on campus, which were once named after men connected to white supremacy.
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The UNC Board of Trustees made the decision to change the names in 2020, when the names Aycock, Carr, and Daniels were removed from the buildings.
Julian Carr, Carrboro’s namesake, fought for and strongly supported the Confederacy. He was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan and is known for giving a speech highlighting white supremacist ideologies.
Josephus Daniels, former editor of the News & Observer, had ties to the Wilmington massacre, in which a mob of white men overthrew the city government and killed dozens of black community members.
Charles Brantley Aycock was elected governor from 1901 to 1905 after leading a white supremacist campaign.
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Now, the newly renamed residence hall will honor UNC’s first African-American faculty member: Hortense McClinton.
She was hired to work at the School of Social Work in 1966. UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said McClinton was an inspiration.
“She overcame the barriers of segregation to become a leader in the field of social work,” Guskiewicz said. “She taught generations of social workers and prepared them to practice without racial bias.”
Dr. Ramona Denby-Brinson, dean of the UNC School of Social Work, credited McClinton with paving the way for her.
“We’re proud, but not surprised that it was a social worker who broke down barriers,” Denby-Brinson said. “Thanks to Mrs. McClinton, I’m here.”
McClinton, who beamed with pride and joy at the event, said she didn’t expect a building to be named after her.
“Thank you very much,” she said. “I am happy to have had the opportunity to work here. I hope that we will continue to do good things against racism and that we will learn a lot.”
UNC also renamed one of its student affairs offices for the first Native American and person of color to enroll in graduate school: Henry Owl.
Owl enrolled in 1928 to earn a master’s degree in history.
Owl wrote his master’s thesis on the history of the Cherokee Indians – a topic that Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz says is still relevant today.
“We want to recognize that even though we were the first public university, we weren’t the first on this earth,” Guskiewicz said.
Virginia Cardenas of the UNC Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity also highlighted Owl’s lasting legacy.
“Mr. Owl’s lyrics have opened doors for many of us that may sound or sound different,” Cardenas said.
At Friday’s ceremony, Owl’s daughter, Gladys Cardiff, also took the podium.
“When I think of my father and how he is honored in this way, I think of the whole Owl family,” Cardiff said. “History is who speaks, who speaks and who does not speak.”
Cardiff said she hopes her father’s name commemorated at UNC will help other Indigenous students feel at home in Chapel Hill.
“It’s central to the idea of belonging where you are, rather than wandering the halls feeling like you’re the only one of your kind there,” Cardiff said.