Local News

Duke trustees vote to change name of Carr building, named after white supremacist

Posted December 1, 2018 3:21 p.m. EST
Updated December 1, 2018 4:02 p.m. EST

The Board of Trustees at Duke University has voted to change the name of the Carr Building, which was named for Julian Carr, a white supremacist who fought for the confederacy and gave a fiery speech in 1913 at the Silent Sam statue dedication.

The move occurred during the trustees quarterly meeting held this weekend.

According to a statement released Saturday by Duke, the building will now be called the Classroom Building -- its original name -- until a new name is chosen.

The statement did not elaborate on when a new name for the building would be chosen or who would make the decision. The statement did also list the number of trustees who vote for or opposed the measure.

The trustees approved the measure after recommendations from a university committee that had studied the issue and from President Vincent E. Price.

"“With each new student or faculty member who arrives here, with each new discovery made or perspective shared, this community grows and evolves to better meet the challenges of its time," Price said in an email to the Duke campus on Saturday. "The renaming of the Carr Building represents one such evolution, at once a reflection of how our world has changed and a demonstration that our values and bonds will endure far longer than mortar or stone.”

The Carr Building committee's membership includes current and former trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni and members of the administration as well as historians and the current university archivist and the university archivist emeritus.

The committee pointed out that Carr’s philanthropy and involvement with what was then Trinity College helped ensure the fledgling university's survival during its early years, helping the school move to its current home in Durham from rural Randolph County in the 1890s.

And Carr's help included a donation of 62 acres of land in 1890 for the college, which is now part of present-day East Campus, according to the school

But committee members said they could not disavow Carr's past.

“[The] white supremacist actions that Carr pursued throughout his life, even when considered in light of the time in which they were held, are inconsistent with the fundamental aspirations of this university, and removing the name will be a powerful statement that lifts up our values as a diverse and inclusive institution,” according to the committee's report.

The committee report was in response to an August 2018 request from Duke’s history department, which is located in the building that bore Carr’s name, to have Carr’s name removed.

The department had floated the idea of renaming the building in honor of Raymond Gavins, Duke’s first African American professor of history, who taught at the university from 1970 until his death in 2016.

Carr was a wealthy man who presided over a tobacco empire at the time.

He donated a large sum of money to UNC, Carrboro and Duke University, which is why the "Carr" name can be found on Duke's history department building, on an office building at UNC, and, most prominently, on the Town of Carrboro.

He was a UNC student who died in 1924.

Officials say made his money in the tobacco industry, and, at the Silent Sam dedication, he bragged about "horse-whipping a black woman."

Carr was said to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan at one point.

Duke officials have considered renaming the building after the controversy this year over the Silent Sam statue, a memorial to the Confederacy. Carr delivered the dedication speech when the statue, which was toppled Aug. 20, was originally installed at the campus.