By Evette D. Champion
If you’ve ever been to the University of North Carolina (UNC), you may be familiar with Saunders Hall. Did you know that it was named after a Ku Klux Klan leader from the 19th century?
William Saunders was a graduate of UNC in 1854 and went on to serve as North Carolina’s Secretary of State from 1879 until 1891. According to the university, Saunders “became known as the chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and Chapel Hill” sometime in 1869.
After many years of students urging the university to change the name of the building, trustees have decided to comply. The new name of the building will be Carolina Hill, although the students suggested that it be renamed after Zora Neale Hurston, who was an American folklorist, anthropologist and an author of four novels and over 50 plays, short stories, and essays.
The trustees went on to say there will not be any other buildings named for 16 years and they will be working on creating new education plans that will involve a program where the students will have a “contextualized education on campus history.”
“As we plan the curation and educational initiatives, we will be guided by the same care and thoughtful deliberation exemplified by our trustees,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt.
The building was originally named after Saunders in 1920. At the time, the trustees noted that one of the qualifying credentials in which why they chose him was because of his role as a leader in the KKK. In a statement released on Thursday, present-day trustees said the trustees at the time of the naming were wrong to deem being a leader of a racist organization as a qualification.
A spokesperson from the university explained to The Huffington Post that the freeze on naming buildings is being issued so that the new goals for education will be the primary focus. It is the hope that students will be able to recognize and appreciate the university’s history, even the more sordid parts.
Another building at UNC that students have been asking to have its name changed, is the Aycock Residence. This building was named after Charles Aycock, a man who was linked to the white supremacy movement in the early part of the 20th century.
Because of the freeze on naming buildings, the students will have to live with the name for another 16 years.