Duke to rename Carr Building

The University has stripped Julian Carr's name from the East Campus building that bore it for nearly 90 years.

The change comes four years after Duke renamed Aycock Residence Hall on East Campus because of its namesake's history and amidst a national conversation about removing Confederate or racist memorials.

The Board of Trustees approved removing without dissent Carr's name at its meeting this weekend, Board Chair Jack Bovender said. The decision was announced to the University in an email from President Vincent Price Saturday afternoon.

"Our campus is first and foremost an inclusive community of people, not of classrooms and buildings," Price wrote in his email to the Duke community. "With each new student or faculty member who arrives here, with each new discovery made or perspective shared, this community grows and evolves to better meet the challenges of its time. The renaming of the Carr Building represents one such evolution, at once a reflection of how our world has changed and a demonstration that our values and bonds will endure far longer than mortar or stone."

The Carr Building will be called the Classroom Building until a new name is chosen. Price told The Chronicle after the Board meeting that he does not have a set time frame for recommending a new name, adding that he is considering the building's name in conjunction with other memorial efforts on campus.

The Classroom Building was the Carr Building's original name before it was renamed in honor of Carr in 1930. The decision to revert to the Classroom Building comes after the ad hoc committee did not make a recommendation on a new name, according to the Duke Today release. Instead, the committee deferred the renaming process to the Board of Trustees. In its request to rename the building, the history department asked that it be named after Raymond Gavins, the first African-American professor in the department.

The Carr Building's name came under scrutiny at the beginning of the semester, when Duke's history department filed a formal request for the name to be reconsidered. 

The request stemmed from the department's concerns about Julian Carr, after whom the building was named. Carr donated the land for East Campus to Trinity College—Duke's predecessor—and served on its Board of Trustees.

“It is a reasonable assertion to say that Duke wouldn’t exist were it not for the generosity of Julian Carr. It is also true that he was a virulent white supremacist,” Taylor wrote in an email to The Chronicle in August. “Both of these things are true about Mr. Carr, and I think Duke needs to tell this story explicitly via a full, academically rigorous contextualization of Julian Carr, and then we all need to wrestle with what it means for us today.”

Carr supported the Ku Klux Klan's violence, and bragged about “horsewhipp[ing] a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds” because she “publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady" when he spoke at the dedication of the Silent Sam statue—a Confederate monument pulled down by protesters earlier this semester—at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

The Duke Today release about the name change noted Carr's contributions of moving Trinity College from Randolph County to Durham in the 1890s, but noted he was "an active proponent of white supremacy throughout his adult life."

"He boasted about being a member of the initial Ku Klux Klan and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1900 on a white supremacist platform," the release stated.

The push to rename the Carr Building kicked off in the spring, when student protesters included it as one of their demands when they interrupted an alumni reunion event where Price was speaking. 

After the Robert E. Lee statue was removed from the Chapel steps last year, Price created a formal process for requests to be made concerning names and places of memory on campus. At the beginning of this semester, the history department faculty members—who work in the Carr Building—filed a formal request to strip Carr's name and requested the building to be renamed in honor of Raymond Gavins.

Following the request, support for the change emerged from various parts of the Duke community. The student protesters, who formed a group called People's State of the University, held a rally at the building in support of the change. More than 140 alumni of the history department sent in a signed letter that encouraged renaming the building, and Duke Student Government unanimously passed a resolution calling for a name change. 

This is not the first time a building on Duke's campus has been renamed after its namesake's questionable past has come to light. The first-year residence hall Aycock—named after an early 1900s North Carolina governor active in the white supremacist movement—was renamed in 2014 to East Residence Hall, though the decision to rename Aycock was reached through a less formal process.

The Board also supported the committee's recommendation to create a display inside the Carr Building explaining "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," according to the Duke Today release.

The committee's report said that it received more than 900 responses to an online survey requesting input and heard from multiple members of Carr's family. The educational installment is a key part of the recommendation, according to the report.

"The unanimity of the committee’s support for the recommendation to remove the name is contingent on the creation of means to present educational and historical information on Julian Carr in order to preserve the record on Carr’s contributions to Trinity College and help the community understand his complex legacy," the report stated.

"We note that no individual is perfect, and we do not pretend to sit in judgment on any individual as a human or citizen," the report said. "But the white supremacist actions that Carr pursued throughout his life, even when considered in light of the time in which they were held, are inconsistent with the fundamental aspirations of this university, and removing the name will be a powerful statement that lifts up our values as a diverse and inclusive institution."

Per the formalized process, the request was reviewed by an ad hoc committee Price formed in response to the request, which delivered a proposal to him. Price reviewed the proposal and delivered it to the Board of Trustees, which supported removing Carr's name. Bovender said he appreciated the formalized process.

"Julian Carr's legacy is complicated. His leadership of and philanthropy to Trinity College helped ensure that the small liberal arts school would remain independent and would have the means—and the land—to transform into the great university it has become," Price wrote in the email. "But this same person also actively promoted white supremacy through words and deeds that, even by the historic norms of the time, were extraordinarily divisive and caused serious harm to members of his community. It is for these reasons that I agree with the History Department, the committee members and the trustees that removal is the appropriate course of action."

Bre Bradham

Bre is a senior political science major from South Carolina, and she is the current video editor, special projects editor and recruitment chair for The Chronicle. She is also an associate photography editor and an investigations editor. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief and local and national news department head. 

Twitter: @brebradham

Email: breanna.bradham@duke.edu


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