First off, happy Washington's birthday to everyone. By this time next year I hope that Autumn Barrett and I will have our paper on the Richmond Washington Equine Statue done. There's a lot to talk about there -- including the role of enslaved labor in building the monument and the role of a private charitable trust in financing the monument and thus in aiding the state's mission of commemorating Washington and furthering the constitutional culture of economic and moral progress. And then there is the debate about what Washington's legacy meant to people in the 1850s. In part through this monument he was turned into a symbol of states' rights and proslavery ideas. I mean, the Confederacy incorporated the image of the monument into its seal!
But right now I want to talk about another monument -- this time a building. It's been a while since I wrote about the discussion of renaming Saunders Hall here in Chapel Hill Last spring and summer, amidst Duke's renaming of Aycock Hall, students here in Chapel Hill began a movement to rename Saunders Hall. The short version is that in 1922 the University named what was then the history department after William Lawrence Saunders -- who was an important figured in the publication of early North Carolina records. He was also a Confederate veteran who had been seriously wounded during the war and a strenuous opponent of Reconstruction. Probably he was a leading supporter of the Klan.
According to the Daily Tar Heel, the Board of Trustees will be announcing a response to this movement soon. And on Wednesday I'll be speaking at lunch in room 4082 to law students (and anyone else who's interested in a couple of free slices of pizza) about the law and morality of building renaming. I'll be talking a little about the law (the rights of donors and also three statutes -- one in Georgia that limits the removal of war memorials from public property, another in Virginia that provides funding for the maintenance of Confederate graves, and a section of the US code that provides for cemetery markers for veterans). Then I'll shift to talk about other buildings on campus -- like Ruffin Hall -- and also the movement to rename buildings at other schools, as well as some of the considerations on each side of the discussion. The Chancellor here has promulgated some guidelines regarding initial naming and renaming, too. They're worth some commentary, especially the different position they take on renaming from initial naming.
I'm not going to be pushing my views on this. The lunch is sponsored by the student bar association here as part of their periodic discussions with faculty. If you're in the area, I hope you join us.