Yale Worker Destroys Stained-Glass Window Depicting Slaves

The window was inside Calhoun College, which was named for former Vice President John C. Calhoun, an ardent defender of slavery during the 19th century

Yale University officials have asked the state not to pursue criminal charges against a former worker who destroyed a stained-glass window depicting slaves in a cotton field last month. 

Corey Menafee, a 38-year-old former dining hall employee who is black, told reporters outside of New Haven Superior Court on Tuesday that he probably should not have broken the window last month, but found the image disturbing. 

“An image was brought to my attention and I destroyed that image. I probably shouldn’t have, but I did,” he said. "It was a disturbing image of what appeared to be two slaves --  a male and a female -- carrying baskets to a cotton field."

The window was inside Calhoun College, which was named for former Vice President John C. Calhoun, an ardent defender of slavery during the 19th century. The college's name has been the subject of protests by students who want it changed. 

Menafee was in court on Tuesday to face a felony charge of criminal mischief and a misdemeanor reckless endangerment charge. 

His lawyer said there’s an agreement to not prosecute, but there was no evidence of that agreement in court today. 

Activists stood no the steps of New Haven Superior Court to support Menafee.

"I’m here because I actually feel the pain and rage that young man must have felt when he broke that window," said Barbara Fair, of New Haven, who brought her grandaughter to the demonstration. "To have to work in a racist environment every day.”

After the court appearance, Yale released a statement about the incident.

They said the glass fell onto the street near a passerby and endangered her safety and the employee responsible apologized, although they did not mention Menafee by name.

“The employee apologized for his actions and subsequently resigned from the University. The University has requested that the State’s Attorney not press charges. Yale is also not seeking restitution,” the statement from the school says.

Local 35 UNITE HERE union President Bob Proto had the following comment on the situation.

"Facing termination and worrying about providing for his family, Mr. Menafee chose to resign; the union stood with Mr. Menafee through this terrible ordeal and we will stand by him again if Yale is willing to discuss a pathway for Mr. Menafee to return to a Yale University job."

Yale said it had already planned to remove the window. 

The Committee on Art in Public Spaces was directed to assess the windows in Calhoun and other art on campus and recommended in June that the window in question and some others be removed from Calhoun, conserved for future study and a possible contextual exhibition, and replaced with tinted glass for the time being, a statement from the school says.

“An artist specializing in stained glass will be commissioned to design new windows, with input from the Yale community, including students, on what should replace them,” Yale said in a statement.

Menafee is expected back in court in two weeks. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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