Yale Grapples With Ties to Slavery in Debate Over a College’s Name

Yale Grapples With Ties to Slavery in Debate Over a College’s Name

Calhoun College at Yale University
Calhoun College at Yale University

NEW HAVEN (New York Times) — When Maya Jenkins was accepted to Yale, her family erupted in joy. Still, her mother confessed a concern: that her daughter might be assigned to Calhoun College, one of the 12 residential colleges at the heart of the university’s undergraduate life. It is named for John C. Calhoun, a Yale valedictorian-turned-politician from South Carolina and one of the 19th century’s foremost white supremacists, who promoted slavery as “a positive good.”

Ms. Jenkins, a black sophomore from Indianapolis, brushed aside her mother’s apprehensions, but a few months later, she was indeed placed in Calhoun, where depictions of its namesake abound. As she eats lunch in the dining hall or studies in the common room, the historical association feels inescapable.

“I’m constantly thinking about Calhoun the slave owner staring me down,” Ms. Jenkins, 19, said. “It’s supposed to be my home, but I feel like I can’t be my full self here.”

She belongs to a growing chorus of students, alumni and faculty members calling on Yale to rename the college. The idea has circulated around campus for decades, to minimal effect. But this academic year, galvanized by the massacre in Charleston and the removal of the Confederate battle flag outside the South Carolina State House, Yale finds itself in a renewed debate over its historical ties to slavery and the symbols of that affiliation.

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