Will the University of North Carolina Rename a Building That Honors a KKK Leader?

The board of trustees at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is currently seeking input from all sectors of the campus community on a proposal to rename Saunders Hall on campus.

William_L_SaundersIn 1922 the university named its new history department building in honor of William Lawrence Saunders who was a university trustee from 1874 to 1891. Saunders was a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served as colonel in the Confederate Army. After the war, he was said to be a major figure in the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan.

Students have held protests on campus demanding that the building, which now serves as a classroom building for the geography and religion departments, be renamed to honor Zora Neale Hurston, the esteemed writer who was one of the first Black students at the university. At one protest, students hung nooses around their necks and held signs that read, “THIS is what Saunders would do to ME.”

A website has been set up to solicit comments on whether the building’s name should be changed. Comments will be collected through April 25.

Update: On May 28, 2015, the board voted 10-3 to rename the building Carolina Hall.

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