Change the Name, Remember the Contribution
It is well documented that some of the finest and best institutions of higher learning can attribute their very success and survival to the multi-generational fruits of Unpaid Labor. And some have begun actively removing negative symbols of slavery on their campuses.
The latest example is happening in New Haven, Connecticut. Seemingly out of nowhere, Yale University has decided to change the name of its Calhoun College. This is a reversal of a decision the Yale Corporation made in May of 2016 (we wrote about it). Back then, they did this huge study and decided not to change the name. As it turns out the controversy about the name John C. Calhoun at Yale has raged for years. And what is the controversy? Calhoun was a strong supporter of slavery. He died in 1850 and Yale named Calhoun College in 1932. So 167 years after his death, and 85 years after Yale gave a building his name, they have made the decision to change the name.
So what is it all about? It’s certainly about the Yale community not wanting to be associated with slavery, racism and discrimination. It must certainly be about putting the past behind them. It must certainly be about getting rid of a past that makes one uncomfortable today because it was wrong then and would be wrong now. It must certainly be about making it comfortable for students who come to Yale.
But it is about so much more than that. It is about what to do with the history of racial slavery in America. This thing. This sore. It is about this elephant in the room.
Other colleges and universities are facing the same issue for the same reasons. You may read about it on this site in the article Unpaid Labor Helped Fund America's Oldest and Best Colleges and Universities.
So it begs the question: Should your college decide to eliminate the overt and offensive evidences of slavery, should it also do something to officially acknowledge and memorialize the Contribution of Unpaid Labor (racial slavery) to the birth, growth and survival of the institution?
Unpaid Labor has no recommendations for Yale and the other college and university communities that are addressing their slavery histories. However we encourage them to consider our question. After all, history tells us that John C. Calhoun was a racist and that slaves were victims. But history also tells us that the Contribution of the people imported to our country for their labor is the indispensable factor in the birth, growth and survival of the United States – the most successful nation in modern history. This is also true of our college and university system.