UNC Chapel Hill renames two buildings for trailblazers of color

14 May 2022

— The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill held a dedication ceremony Friday morning for the renaming of two buildings on campus, which had formerly been named after men with ties to white supremacy.

A look at the former UNC building names and their history

The UNC Board of Trustees made the decision to change the names in 2020, when the names Aycock, Carr and Daniels were removed from buildings.

Julian Carr, the namesake of Carrboro, fought for and heavily supported the Confederacy. He was a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan, and is known for giving a speech highlighting white supremacist ideologies.

Josephus Daniels, former editor of the News & Observer, had ties to the Wilmington Massacre, in which a mob of white men overthrew the city government and killed dozens members of the Black community.

Charles Brantley Aycock was elected governor from 1901 to 1905 after running a white supremacist campaign.

Historic marker honors Black reverend who preserved history of Wilmington Massacre

A look at the new UNC building names and their stories

Now, the newly renamed residence hall will honor the first African American faculty member at UNC: Hortense McClinton.

She was hired to work in the School of Social Work in 1966. UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said McClinton is an inspiration.

“She overcame the obstacles of segregation to become a leader in the field of social work,” Guskiewicz said. “She taught generations of social workers and prepared them to practice without racial bias.”

Henry Owl Building on UNC-Chapel Hill campus

Dr. Ramona Denby-Brinson, the Dean of the UNC School of Social Work credited McClinton with paving the way for her.

“We are proud, but not surprised that it was a social worker who broke barriers,” Denby-Brinson said. “Because of Ms. McClinton, I’m here.”

McClinton, who was beaming with pride and joy at the event, said she never expected to have a building named after her.

“I thank you so much,” she said. “I’m glad i had the opportunity to work here. I hope we will continue to do good things in racism and we will learn a lot.”

UNC also renamed one of its student affairs offices for the first American Indian and person of color to enroll in graduate school: Henry Owl.

Owl enrolled in 1928 to earn a Master’s degree in history.

Owl wrote his Master’s Thesis on the history of the Cherokee Indians – a topic Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz says is still relevant today.

“We want to acknowledge that even though we were the first public university, we were not the first on this land,” Guskiewicz said.

Virginia Cardenas with the UNC Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity also pointed to Owl’s lasting legacy.

“Mr. Owl’s words opened doors for many of us who may look or sound different,” Cardenas said.

During Friday’s ceremony, Owl’s daughter Gladys Cardiff also took the podium.

“When I think of my dad and how he comes to be honored this way, I think of the entire Owl family,” Cardiff said. “History is all about who speaks, who gets to speak, and who does not.”

Cardiff said she hopes her father’s name memorialized at UNC helps other indigenous students feel at home in Chapel Hill.

“That’s central to the idea of belonging where you are, rather than wandering the halls, feeling like you’re the only one of your kind there,” Cardiff said.

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