Credit: NC State University

Lilly Shapiro is a third-year student majoring in business administration at NC State University. Like most students, Shapiro spends a lot of time on campus. 

She does homework in D. H. Hill Library every week and enjoys hanging out with friends at the Atrium. She passes through the Brickyard on her way to classes before she attends her supply chain lecture at Nelson Hall. After her day is over, she enjoys grabbing dinner and Howling Cow ice cream at Talley Student Union. However, Shapiro readily admits that she does not know whom Talley—as in Banks Talley, a former vice chancellor who led the merger of the university’s agricultural and engineering programs with the arts—was named for.

“I had no clue,” Shapiro says. “It’s kind of crazy so many students aren’t aware of NC State’s history.” 

In fact, of 10 students surveyed at Talley Student Union one day, none knew who Talley was. 

Of the roughly 1,000 buildings on NC State’s main campus, most facilities and residence halls are named after high-achieving alumni, chancellors or professors, or major donors to the university. The vast majority of these buildings are named after white men, though today, NC State’s student body, faculty, and staff are much more diverse. Not only that, but there are multiple buildings named after people who were known to be racist, typically white men with involvement in the Confederate army or with ties to white supremacy. 

 In its marketing, NC State emphasizes its diversity and inclusivity, yet its building names do not reflect this. Recently, some students have suggested that the names of certain buildings on campus should be updated. Faculty members, too, have suggested reconsidering the process of naming buildings altogether. 

If students don’t know who the campus buildings are named for, they argue, there’s no way they’ll know the controversial histories of these buildings’ namesakes. 

 “When it gets brought to your attention, you care, but most people don’t know,” says Grace Harrison, a third-year biochemistry student “If I found out they were bad, I wouldn’t be happy.”

Taylor Simpson, a second-year science education student, agrees. 

“[Campus buildings] should not be named after racists or white supremacists,” Simpson says.

Holly Hurlburt, an NC State history professor, assistant dean, and the director of academic enrichment programs, says she believes it is important to consider where building names are coming from. 

“A name is a really powerful thing,” Hurlburt says.

Building namesakes show dark pasts 

Several buildings and landmarks on campus are named after individuals who have histories of racism, according to Brick Layers, a team researching the history of NC State campus facilities and their namesakes. 

In the heart of campus, Dan Allen Drive and its parking deck get their name from Daniel Allen, a secretary of Raleigh’s White Supremacy Club in the early 20th century. 

Allen was known to have particularly strong views in favor of local segregation policies and the advancement of the white population of Raleigh at the expense of Black citizens. He was specifically cited by The Morning Post, a conservative newspaper founded in 1897, as showing “care for the interests of Anglo-Saxon North Carolina.” 

According to Brick Layers, in the 1920s, all three of Allen’s real estate transactions in the area contained restrictive covenants outlining segregation practices that oppressed the Black community. 

Poe Hall’s namesake, Clarence Hamilton Poe, has drawn scrutiny recently for his segregationist ideals and crude racist remarks in the Progressive Farmer newspaper while he was its editor in the late 1890s. Last year, students published an editorial in NC State’s student newspaper The Technician making the case that Poe is not an appropriate namesake and called for Poe Hall to be renamed. 

Yet another building with a controversial namesake is David Clark Laboratories. David Clark was the founder and editor of the Southern Textile Bulletin newspaper beginning in 1911 and received an honorary doctorate in textiles from NC State in 1944. 

As editor of the Bulletin, Clark published his racist views and was particularly vocal about his prosegregation opinions. Clark also expressed his opposition to laws restricting child labor. Brick Layers reports that Clark was quoted stating his disdain for the University of North Carolina’s acceptance of minority students.   

Finally, NC State campus’s Park Shops building also has a controversial namesake in Charles B. Park. At the turn of the 20th century, Park was the vice president of Raleigh’s White Supremacy Club.

The White Supremacy Club worked to “​​fully restore and make permanent in North Carolina the supremacy of the white race,” according to the Morganton News Herald in a piece written in 1900. The club campaigned for the favorability of the white race and pushed for taxes at polls and a literacy test, a racist law that is still on North Carolina’s books today. (Dan Allen was a member of this same White Supremacy Club.)

“That feels pretty inappropriate to me,” says Hurlburt, of naming the student stores for Park.

Possibilities of changing and renaming  

So, should the names of these buildings be changed? 

According to NC State’s policy titled Review of Facility Namings for Removal, REG 03.00.04, “NC State University is dedicated to ensuring a welcoming, diverse and inclusive campus environment for all students, faculty, staff, alumni and visitors,” a policy with which the values of the White Supremacy Club and its members seem clearly to be at odds. The regulation also states, “NC State will consider the removal of a naming from buildings, spaces, streets, monuments and other named spaces on campus when strong evidence exists that the name is in opposition to the current mission and values of NC State.” 

A common objection to the removal of offensive names or monuments is the idea that it may erase history or attempt to change the past, says Hurlburt.

But she disagrees. 

“We’re not losing the history,” she says. “A statue is not history, a statue is commemoration.” 

The same could be said about the names of campus buildings. More controversial than renaming, perhaps, may be allowing the names to remain. 

Other institutions in North Carolina have renamed buildings that were regarded as inappropriate. East Carolina University removed Charles B. Aycock’s name from Aycock Residence Hall in 2016. Aycock was the 50th governor of North Carolina and was heavily involved in white supremacy campaigns. His work with the Democratic Party led to the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, according to The Well, a UNC-Chapel Hill publication. During his governance, Aycock passed laws that disenfranchised Black voters. 

UNC has also removed several controversial namesakes from its buildings, including those of Aycock and Josephus Daniels. These buildings are now called Residence Hall One in Lower Quad and UNC Student Stores. UNC also removed Julian Carr’s name from a campus building due to his open support of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacy. Duke University removed Carr’s name from a campus building in 2018. 

William Laws is a North Carolina history professor and an expert on memorialization in NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences. He suggests changing the strategy of naming buildings entirely. 

“I am actually opposed to any kind of monuments that single out people and place them above others in public spaces,” Laws says. “In a democracy we are supposed to all be equal. There is a lot of hatred and discrimination in our monumental history. … I would rather see ‘History Hall’ or ‘Engineering Hall,’ more functional [names].” 

NC State has already done this on Centennial Campus, with buildings with “neutral” names such as Engineering Buildings I, II, and III, which don’t carry the controversies that go along with any namesakes. It’s possible, though, that these buildings could be renamed in the future. 

NC State, too, has shown that renaming buildings on campus can be done. The university changed the name of Daniels Hall to 111 Lampe Drive in 2020. The building was formerly named for Josephus Daniels, an outspoken white supremacist and former editor of The News & Observer. The building’s new name is simply the street address of the building. 

Another option could be to rename campus buildings to reflect more of the diversity present at NC State. 

“Native American land pledges tell us that this land was historically occupied by and sacred to Native Americans,” Hurlburt says. “It would be neat to acknowledge that in some way.” 

Located just a mile from the main campus, Dorothea Dix Park recognizes its space as the “ancestral land of many indigenous tribes.” Further, the park’s website states that it acknowledges the land’s past: “Only by sharing Dix park’s deep and complex history can we move memory into action and truly create a park for everyone.” Raleigh has been home to the Coharie, Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi, Sappony, and Waccamaw-Siouan people, according to the Dorothea Dix Park website.

“I am actually opposed to any kind of monuments that single out people and place them above others in public spaces. In a democracy we are supposed to all be equal.

But to change the names of buildings would require that the university undertake a lengthy and complex logistical process with several steps and important considerations, according to NC State university architect Lisa Johnson.

“If you’re taking a name off of something, you don’t do it lightly,” Johnson says. “Daniels Hall had a lot of discussion going on before the campus decided to take the name off. It’s all about doing due diligence, investigating, weighing the options, and then making that decision.” 

Johnson says she believes the members of the NC State community should be involved in decision-making about campus buildings. 

“It needs to be a process and a discussion with the campus community, listening to all views,” Johnson says. “Diversity of views is important.”  

When Josephus Daniels’s name was removed from Daniels Hall, Chancellor Randy Woodson discussed the decision with the Daniels family and they were understanding, according to an N&O report. And it’s a conversation that can extend to other features around campus, including namesake outdoor spaces and streets. 

Johnson says she agrees with the students and faculty that naming changes need to be made. 

“We don’t have enough buildings named after women or minorities,” Johnson says. 

As time goes by, values change and the community may see it necessary to update memorialization to reflect these values. 

“If they do not represent what we value moving forward, changing the name is appropriate,” Laws says. “I believe as a scholar of memory and commemoration that every generation should have the right to remember who they want to remember.”

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