Demands to rename Tillman Hall at Clemson University, the circulation of a video showing a racist chant at the University of Oklahoma and the discovery of a fraternity pledge book discussing lynching at North Carolina State University demonstrate how persistent racial issues are on college campuses. Benjamin Tillman was a post-Civil War politician, racial demagogue and participant in racial violence, who was critical to Clemson University’s founding in the late-nineteenth century. Tillman was not the only one. The University of North Carolina trustees are considering a request this week to rename Saunders Hall. The building was named in 1922 for William Saunders, a leader of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan.
Buildings named after participants in racial violence and songs celebrating the segregation as well as the lynching of black people are not merely offensive. They recall the violence used to maintain all-white institutions for much of this country’s history.
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