Petition Calls for Yale University to Remove Slavery Supporter's Name From College

A petition is circulating to have Yale University change the name of one of its colleges because it is named after a supporter of slavery.

The petition posted on the Yale Alumni Magazine's Facebook page comes in the wake of a shooting massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina church.

Calhoun College at Yale is named after John C. Calhoun, a former United States vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, former secretary of state, former U.S. senator in South Carolina and former U.S. representative, according to the U.S. Department of State office of the historian. He graduated from Yale College in 1804 and went to Litchfield Law School after that, according to the U.S. historian's office. He was controversial because of his support of slavery, according to office of the historian.

The petition addressed to the Yale administration states, "It is deeply upsetting that it has taken a tragedy such as the shooting in Charleston to initiate the removal of symbols of white supremacy from public spaces.."

"But public displays of the Confederate Flag throughout the South are finally in peril," the petition states. "Multinational corporations such as Amazon, eBay, Sears, and Walmart have ceased selling merchandise featuring the flag. The Confederate flag, however, is not the only symbol of white supremacy to confront. The monumental task of eliminating the vestiges of racism must include all monuments and symbols dedicated to people and institutions that fought to preserve slavery and white supremacy."

The petitioners request that Yale changes the name of Calhoun College because while he "was respected during his time as an extraordinary American statesman," he also was "one of the most prolific defenders of slavery and white supremacy in American history."

"At a time when many of his southern colleagues viewed slavery as a necessary evil, Calhoun infamously defended the institution as 'a positive good,' " the petition said. "His legacy is built on his vociferous defense of a state’s right to enslave blacks. And during his tenure in Washington, he sharpened racist rhetoric, bolstered the political clout of slave owners, and drove the nation irreversibly toward dissolution and war. Most pertinently, he was a proud champion of the view that blacks were not equal, could never be equal, and would always be subservient to whites."

The petition states that Yale honors Calhoun "with a beautifully renovated college on the corner of Elm and College Street, which its own website refers to as 'truly the best residential college at Yale.'"

"Every day, undergraduates, graduate students, and New Haven residents who pass by see Calhoun’s name, emboldened beneath the Yale insignia," the petition reads. "It has previously been suggested that the name be changed from Calhoun College to Calhoun-Bouchet College, in honor of Edward Bouchet, the first African-American to attend Yale College. We adamantly believe, however, that Calhoun’s name must be removed entirely."

The petitioners said that people need to see the world through others' eyes in order to progress socially.

"Respect for history in the eyes of some is the tolerance of white supremacy in the eyes of others," the petition states. "Like the official display of the Confederate flag in South Carolina, Calhoun College represents an indifference to centuries of pain and suffering among the black population. It conveys disrespect toward black perspectives, and serves a barrier toward racial inclusiveness. Calhoun College will always preclude minority students from feeling truly at home at Yale."

In closing the petition said that changing the college's name and removing Calhoun's would be just "one step of many in the continuing battle to achieve racial equality and racial justice here at Yale, but it is an important symbolic one."

"We respectfully request this change," the petition says.

Yale University could not be immediately reached for comment.

Click here to read the full petition.

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