Davidson College in North Carolina has decided not to rename Chambers Building, the main academic structure on campus. The building is named for Maxwell Chambers who made a contribution to the college in 1855 that allowed the educational institution to continue operations.
Chambers’ business included acquiring and selling plantations, which made him a trafficker of enslaved persons. Davidson College received at least five enslaved persons from Chambers.
“Maxwell Chambers’ history is the college’s history,” said Doug Hicks, president of Davidson College. “The hard reality is that nearly every person associated with Davidson — presidents, trustees, professors, and benefactors — were implicated in the institution of slavery. Simply put, almost all of them were slaveholders. Every name in the college’s early history is associated with enslavement. Removing the name from this building would not expunge our history, and having the name remain requires us each day to account for it, to never forget.”
President Hicks added that it is “our responsibility in the present is to talk about it, teach it and make sure it never happens again. We are called to educate our community about this history, and to expand the college outreach and reconciliation work toward descendants of those who were enslaved.”
The college announced that it is establishing a new Committee on Education and Reconciliation to guide and support the college’s strategic efforts in understanding its history and building an inclusive Davidson College community. Davidson will establish permanent exhibits to convey the full history of Maxwell Chambers. Davidson also will expand its efforts to identify, reach out to, and build connections with descendants of those enslaved by Chambers and other founders and benefactors of the college.