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Yale Changing Name of Calhoun College Over Slavery Ties While Ignoring Elihu Yale

Yale Changing Name of Calhoun College Over Slavery Ties While Ignoring Elihu Yale

“new name will honor computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper”

If it’s so important to change the name of Yale’s Calhoun College over slavery ties, why stop there? Elihu Yale, the university’s namesake had ties to slavery.

NPR reports:

Yale Renames Calhoun College Over Namesake’s Ties To Slavery And White Supremacy

Yale University announced Saturday that it will change the name of one of its esteemed residential colleges, Calhoun College, named after ardent supporter of slavery and prominent 19th century alumnus, John C. Calhoun.

The vote by the Ivy League’s trustees comes after years of debate and it overturns last April’s decision to keep the name. That decision had fueled campus protests from student activists.

The new name will honor computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper, who graduated from Yale in the 1930s. She’s noted for inventing a pioneering computer programming language and being a Navy rear admiral.

In announcing the new name, President Peter Salovey said, “We have a strong presumption against renaming buildings on this campus. … I have been concerned all along and remain concerned that we don’t do things that erase history. So renamings are going to be exceptional.”

Calhoun College was established in the early 1930s.

A native of South Carolina, Calhoun served as vice president of United States under presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, as well as secretary of state, secretary of war, and United States Senator. He was an ardent supporter of slavery until his death in 1850.

“John C. Calhoun. White supremacist. Ardent defender of slavery as a positive good,” Salovey said. “Someone whose views hardened over the course of his life, died essentially criticizing the Declaration of Independence and its emphasis on all men being created equal.”


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This is a good decision. Elihu Yale donated the money to start the college in the first place; it would be a travesty to take his name off it. If they were to do so they should refund to his heirs the money he gave, with 300 years of compound interest.

But Calhoun never gave Yale anything, and he was not just a slave owner but a champion of slavery and a malign influence on US politics for decades. He explicitly repudiated the Declaration of Independence, and deserves a large chunk of the blame for creating the atmosphere that led to the civil war. Yale should never have named a college for him in 1933, and I can only attribute this to the KKK influence that was so prevalent at that time.

Grace Hopper was a great American and Elis should be proud to have her name on one of their colleges. I hope the college flies her flag, which featured a skull and crossbones.