Protesters gather at Duke to urge name change for Carr Building

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018
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Protesters call for Carr Building renaming at Duke.

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Nearly a hundred people gathered on Duke University's East Campus Wednesday night to keep pressure on the university to change the name of the Carr Building.

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The rally was organized by the "People's State of the University," a Duke-based group.

"We're here on this bigger campaign of educating students about who Julian Carr was, what white supremacy looks like at Duke and some of the tangible ways we want the university to change," said Trey Walk, a senior.

Just last week, the history department, which is housed in Carr, filed a request that Julian Shakespeare Carr's name be scrubbed from the building.

"My colleagues' desire has never been to suppress the history of Julian Carr, but it's to hold it up to a fuller scrutiny," said Gunther Peck, an associate professor of history at Duke. "Ultimately we decided that the values of his life are not consistent with our values as historians, which is to see the past in its full complexity -- not to silence people."

The building is named for Carr, a tobacco magnate and philanthropist who fought for the Confederacy. Carr was heavily involved in the Methodist Church as well as the Democratic Party. He was even a delegate to the Democratic National Convention though he never held elected office.

Today, many refer to him as a white supremacist.

That view is largely shaped by a speech Carr gave at the dedication of Silent Sam at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1913. There he bragged about "horse-whipping a negro wench" just about a hundred yards away "from where we stand" for insulting a white woman, or "Southern lady," as Carr put it.

After the Civil War, Carr became a partner of W.T. Blackwell and Company, a manufacturing firm in Durham. According to Duke Libraries, his donation of Blackwell Park to Trinity College allowed the struggling school to move to Durham. Carr served on the Board of Trustees of the College, both prior to and after its move to Durham.

"He's a philanthropist. Many things about him are laudable," Peck said. "I wouldn't be standing here on Duke's campus without his benevolence. At the same time, he was a white supremacist."