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Placing plaques: An update on the University's efforts to mark spaces of memory

In August, President Vincent Price promised a plaque would be installed at the Chapel where a statue of Robert E. Lee was removed a year before.

The plaque—which Price said would explain why the school will leave the space empty—is in the works, according to Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations.

“[The] marker for the foyer of the Chapel is being developed,” Schoenfeld wrote in an email. “We have not yet set a date for its installation.”

Ranging from the promised plaque at the Chapel to a new stone plaque commemorating Julian Abele—the architect of Duke's East and West Campuses and the new namesake of Abele Quad—various physical reminders of Duke University's history are in the works.

Price informed the Duke community on Saturday that the Board of Trustees voted to remove Julian Carr's name from the East Campus building formerly known as the Carr Building. The Committee on the Carr Building recommended for the creation of an exhibit describing the building.

"The committee thus recommends that the university display information inside the Carr building that outlines Carr’s connection to Duke and his legacy in the wider world; the marker should state why the university chose to name the building in his honor in 1930, and why it chose to remove his name nearly ninety years later," the Carr Building committee wrote.

It also suggested for "a more extensive exhibit" detailing the history of Julian Carr, Trinity College, and Duke University relating to "Duke’s larger effort to present its history to educate the Duke community and the public."

When Aycock Residence Hall was renamed to East Residence Hall in 2014, then President Richard Brodhead made a similar promise. At the announcement of the name change, Brodhead called for a marker in East Residence Hall to commemorate the history of Aycock.

“To ensure that the change is an educational one, a plaque detailing the history of the name will be placed in the entryway of the dormitory, Brodhead noted,” reported Emma Baccellieri in The Chronicle.

Now, there is a framed document in the East Residence Hall foyer detailing its history. According to the document, when the hall first opened in September 1911, it was named East Dormitory but was renamed in the following year after former North Carolina Gov. Charles Brantley Aycock. 

It notes how “Aycock’s legacy is a complicated one,” as his “educational leadership” of increasing educational options “for both white and black students within a segregated system was honored by the trustees in 1912.” 

“But as governor, Aycock also led the effort to disenfranchise black voters in North Carolina, including by using literacy tests as a bar to civic participation,” the document reads.

Because of the University’s “values of inclusion and nondiscrimination” that are integral to its mission today, the Board of Trustees decided to rename the building over 100 years later. 

Another plaque is currently in the works, one marking Abele Quad, and is scheduled to be put in place in the coming months. Executive Vice President Tallman Trask wrote in an email that the current brass Abele Quad plaque near the West Campus bus stop was “always intended as temporary” and “took longer” than expected to craft a stone replacement.

“It’s now finished and will likely be installed over winter break,” Trask wrote.

Duke's main quad was renamed to Abele Quad in 2016.

Currently inside the Chapel, there is a plaque about Abele that provides a brief biography on his personal life and his architectural achievements at Duke and other institutions. There is also a new cornerstone outside the Chapel crediting Abele. Abele was the first black graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's architecture program. 

“His significant legacy continues in the buildings he created, especially here at Duke University, and notably in Duke Chapel,” the plaque inside the Chapel reads.

Stefanie Pousoulides | Investigations Editor

Stefanie Pousoulides is The Chronicle's Investigations Editor. A senior from Akron, Ohio, Stefanie is double majoring in political science and international comparative studies and serves as a Senior Editor of The Muse Magazine, Duke's feminist magazine. She is also a former co-Editor-in-Chief of The Muse Magazine and a former reporting intern at PolitiFact in Washington, D.C.


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