Yale relents, will rename Calhoun College for trailblazing woman | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Yale relents, will rename Calhoun College for trailblazing woman

Posted By on Sat, Feb 11, 2017 at 4:13 PM

AT YALE: Family and friends of Roosevelt Thompson gathered last year for a ceremony naming the Colahou College dining hall for the Little Rock native, who's depicted in a portrait made for the room.
  • AT YALE: Family and friends of Roosevelt Thompson gathered last year for a ceremony naming the Colahou College dining hall for the Little Rock native, who's depicted in a portrait made for the room.

Yale University
has yielded to complaints and will change the name of its residential Calhoun College, named for former Vice President John Calhoun, a slavery advocate, to honor Grace Murray Hopper.

Hopper, who received a PhD in mathematics and mathematical physics in 1934, was a computer scientist and mathematician who served as a rear admiral in the Navy.

We've followed the Yale controversy because an earlier compromise on student protests about the name included the naming of the dining hall in the building for the late Roosevelt Thompson, a Little Rock native and Rhodes Scholar killed in an auto accident during the spring of his senior year at Yale. Earlier protests had led to removal of stained glass windows depicting slaves picking cotton, but the college had earlier decided to keep the name, saying it would help the institution confront its past ties to slavery.

The latest decision followed a meeting of the university board of trustees.

"The decision to change a college’s name is not one we take lightly," Yale President Peter Salovey said in a statement about the residential college's name that has existed for 86 years.

"Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a ‘positive good’ fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values," he added.
The news follows by a day the publication of an op-ed column in the New York Times by a black Yale graduate, Tobias Holden, urging a committee considering the issue anew to removethe name from the building. He participated in the student protests as a student and writes from the perspective of a native of South Carolina, like Calhoun.  Then things got more complicated:

While I was at school, my grandmother sent me a recently uncovered family tree and oral history. It was compiled by one of my great-uncles for a 1990 family reunion, and it stretches back to the early 1800s, to a great-great-great-great-grandmother known as Grandma Nancy. She was born near the Fort Hill Plantation — now preserved on the campus of Clemson University. Her mother was a Cherokee slave named Liza Lee. Her father was John C. Calhoun.

I couldn’t make sense of it. I’d spent the past year and a half advocating the removal of my own ancestor’s legacy and I didn’t even know it.
He's visited the Calhoun plantation, now preserved at Clemson University.

My reflection looks different to me now. I know I shouldn’t be ashamed, but this knowledge definitely doesn’t make me proud. I am both a part of Calhoun’s family and a descendant of African-Americans he claimed as his property, and it blows my mind. My family has been running from slavery and its aftermath for at least five generations. I ran farthest, but ended up right where my ancestor was in 1804 when he graduated from Yale.

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