Students, faculty members and local residents rallied Wednesday to support the renaming of the Carr Building on East Campus and stand up against what they described as white supremacy on Duke's campus.
The rally echoed a request the History Department filed Aug. 24 to strip Julian Carr’s name from the building, where the department is located. The proposal states that Carr distorted history to support his white supremacist politics, which makes his name inappropriate for the building that houses the department of history.
“[Carr is] connected to Silent Sam, a key figure in the history of white supremacy," said Gunther Peck, associate professor of history, in a speech at Wednesday’s rally. "It’s Silent Sam’s suffering that was used to silence systematically African Americans in the state and to take their vote from them and justify it after the fact.”
The Carr building has borne his name since 1930, honoring Carr's donation of Blackwell Park to the struggling Trinity College, which enabled the establishment of the school in Durham.
As a former Confederate soldier and tobacco magnate on the Board of Trustees for Trinity College, Carr’s legacy at Duke is complex. According to the history department's proposal, he ran for office with the slogan “The White Man Must Rule or Die," donated to white supremacist causes and was a key force in violently disenfranchising African Americans in North Carolina. In his speech at the dedication of the Silent Sam statue at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1913, Carr described taking pleasure in the beating of a black woman.
"White supremacy works as a myth and ideology of white victimhood," Peck said. "Whites are the victims [as well], not others.”
Wahneema Lubiano, associate professor of African and African American Studies, said we should consider fighting racism in a larger context.
“All history is part of a living struggle over how to make sense of the contours of our world with all the means available to us,” the professor said. “The largess of the wealthy is not free of the social climate of its gifting.”
Lubiano also condemned Carr’s racist legacy, describing him as a “joyful and vicious assaulter of a black woman.”
Duke People’s State of the University—a student group that advocates for social justice on campus—organized the rally. In its manifesto, the group lists twelve demands of the school administration, which includes the renaming of the Carr building.
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Senior Trey Walk, a member of the organization and an organizer of the rally, said he and other members are concerned with a wide array of social justice issues, including those related to race, sexual assault, economic justice and disability.
"[The manifesto is] an analysis of all the things we believe to be wrong about the University," Walk said. “I think when you’re a black student on this campus, there are little and big things that say to you that the University is falling short when it says that it cares about you and your life.”
Like the manifesto, the rally covered a wide range of social issues.
Sandra Marquina, the wife of José Chicas–currently living at Durham’s School of Conversion after receiving a detainment order from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in June 2017– said her husband “just wants to stay here, and he’s not trying to hurt anybody.” Marquina asked the crowd for help and invited them to come to the church, which is located just blocks from Duke’s East Campus.
Other speakers at the rally included Anastasia Karklina, a Duke Graduate Student Union representative, junior Corey Pilson, president of the Black Men’s Union, and senior Tyjair Sadler, who is also a member of Duke Student Government Judiciary’s Office of Public Advocacy.
Students who participated also shared their support for the rally.
“What drew me out here was I guess that all the racist events on campus kind of reached a boiling point,” said senior Ryan Bergamini. “We’re trying to create a community where people feel safe…it starts with small things, like changing the name.”
Senior Rafiq Majolagbe said that he thinks there is no reason for the building to be named what it is.
“Carr died a long time ago and I’d at least like to believe that most of the people here don’t espouse his beliefs,” Majolagbe said. “I don’t care so much about the name, I care about the fact that people know Carr’s legacy and aren’t willing to do anything about it.”
Also present at the event were leaders of the Duke community, such as Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs, Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek and senior Kristina Smith, Duke Student Government president.
“I think that what we’re trying to foster here is a place where people feel comfortable, feel included, feel important and feel as though their lives are valued,” Smith said. “[DSG’s] executive board feels that considering renaming the Carr building would be an important step in terms of racial inclusion on campus, for the black community to know that we do not condone white supremacy.”
Despite her show of support for changing the name, Smith also acknowledged the division over the issue, stating that “it’s obviously a very complicated situation, one that administration needs to consider very deeply, one that President [Vincent] Price has to consider and also the Board of Trustees.”
Moneta discussed the ongoing process of reconsidering the building's name.
"Certainly the name is a lightning rod," he said. "My understanding is that it is going through its process, so I'm not sure this is necessarily going to affect the changes. I think the changes are probably inevitable, but it just has to go through the process for name changes. I'm not the last word, so I have no idea."
Moneta said he agreed when the name Aycock was removed from a dormitory previously for its connections to a governor often described as a white supremacist. He said that the process which has more thorough considerations is an appropriate one.
"If the outcome is to change the name because of that, I'm perfectly fine with it," he said.
The biggest effect of the protest, he said, could be the information it passed along to the hundreds of students walking by it from the bus stop.
Indeed, Wasiolek was one person who was passed information that afternoon. She told The Chronicle that she was "here to listen and to learn."
Nathan Luzum and Bre Bradham contributed reporting.