Braxton Craven, Craven Quad’s namesake, was a president of Duke's predecessor Trinity College, a slaveowner and a supporter of the Confederacy. Now, students living in Craven Quad are holding conversations about possibly renaming it.
A Monday email from Craven Quad Council to current and future Craven Quad residents, including first-years living in Basset and Pegram residence halls on East Campus, read that some Craven community members had raised concerns about Braxton Craven’s “controversial and divisive” legacy.
Braxton Craven, born in 1822 in Randolph County, North Carolina, was Trinity College’s president from 1842 until his death in 1882 — except for a brief period in 1864-1865 due to the Civil War. During these forty years, Craven oversaw significant development of the college that would later become Duke University.
Craven was a slave owner and supporter of the Confederacy. While he was president, the Trinity College Industrial Indian Boarding School was initiated, which forced Cherokee students to stop speaking their language — an attempt to “civilize” them and force assimilation.
“As Quad Council, we are committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming community for all our residents and we believe that it is important to acknowledge and address the legacy of individuals who have contributed to our institution's history,” the Monday email read. “We also understand the importance of this moment in our university's history as we come together under the banner of QuadEx and invite everyone to develop a shared identity that unites us.”
As a first step, the Quad Council is now informing Craven community members of Braxton Craven’s legacy, as well as gathering input and holding discussions about how to move forward.
The email asked residents what they thought next steps could look like: “Should we ask administrators to rename the dormitory? Should we contextualize the name by providing more information about Braxton Craven's legacy and the historical context in which he lived? Are there other steps that you think we should take to address this issue?”
Residents were also asked to fill out an anonymous form, which asked “How supportive would you be about asking Duke University to rename Craven Quad?” and allowed write-in responses for comments and questions.
Craven Quad Council also plans to gather input in an open conversation on April 5, where Craven community members may ask questions or share opinions on the idea of renaming the quad. The Council, in addition to their Faculty Fellow Shani Daily, professor of practice in electrical and computer engineering & computer science, and Lee Baker, professor of cultural anthropology, sociology and African and African American Studies, will be facilitating the discussion.
“The public input meeting and survey is meant to be a way for people to provide their opinions and see how most residents feel about it,” wrote Craven Quad Council in an email to The Chronicle.
In the past, Duke has changed the names of buildings with controversial legacies following people’s requests, such as in 2018 with the removal of Julian Carr’s name from an East Campus building. Other buildings with contentious names remain, such as the building named after Braxton Craven’s son-in-law, a white supremacist and confederate soldier, named William Howell Pegram — Pegram residence hall’s namesake.
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Madeleine Berger is a Trinity senior and an editor at large of The Chronicle's 119th volume.