Students have petitioned Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to reconsider its name change for the former Wingate Hall, a building named after a university president in the 19th century who owned slaves.
The proposed name change would turn the building into the May 7, 1860 Hall, marking the date when the college sold 16 enslaved men, women, and children at auction.
“May 7, 1860, is the date Wake Forest sold at auction 16 human beings that a slave-owning benefactor bequeathed to the institution through his estate,” the university explained. “By renaming this building, the University acknowledges participation in slavery, recognizes this aspect of its history and remembers those who labored at the institution against their will.”
“These actions do not address the full story of Wake Forest’s history, but are the principal way the University intends to come to terms with its antebellum heritage,” President Nathan O. Hatch said in an email to the community.
Petition to Replace Name
The petition currently has over 1,700 signatures. The student behind it, Chloe Baker, explained that the name change still memorializes why they decided to take Wingate’s name down in the first place.
“As a student of color at Wake, I am not looking for a reminder of the day people that looked like my family and me were bought and sold in such an inhumane and disgusting manner,” she wrote.
“The events of May 7, 1860 should be acknowledged by our institution, but this is not the way to do it. Let students of color on campus assist with finding a solution to this problem by being an active part of replacing the proposed name,” Baker added.
The petition suggests that the administration rename the building after notable Black individuals who graduated from the university instead, or those who were important figures from Winston-Salem’s history.