Department pushes to rename Duke University's Carr Building

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Duke University history department is calling for a building on campus to be renamed.

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"This is really more about what is that we celebrate in our campus, how should our buildings be named, what do they stand for," said Dr. John Martin, the chairman of Duke's History Department.

The Carr Building, where Duke's history department is housed, is named for Julian Carr.

Carr was a Confederate veteran and tobacco tycoon who gave land where part of the university was built.

While Dr. Martin and his colleagues acknowledged Carr's philanthropy and importance to Duke, they noted his attitudes toward African-Americans are troublesome.

"We saw Julian Carr was a figure who had stood really solidly for the lost cause, for white supremacy, for the cultivation of Confederate veterans. Not in a way that was aiming toward reconciliation between whites and blacks, between North and South, but really hanging on to nostalgia for the pre-Civil War South," Dr. Martin said.

Carr, who was prominent in both the Methodist church and the Democratic Party, gave a racially-charged speech at the dedication of the Silent Sam statue when it was dedicated more than 100 years ago.

During that address in 1913, Carr said, in part:

"I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these university buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shot gun under my head."

On August 20, protesters tore down Silent Sam, the Confederate statue that was on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's campus.

Martin said the department formally submitted their request on Friday, just four days later. However, he said the timing was coincidental, and he added that they had been re-examining Carr's legacy since the Charlottesville riots in August 2017.

Last year, following Charlottesville and vandalism to the Robert E. Lee statue on campus, Duke adopted a process for reviewing requests to rename buildings. To learn more about it, click here.

As part of its request, the department recommended that the building be named after Dr. Raymond Gavins, the first African-American history professor at Duke.

"He was a very quiet individual. He was a very powerful intellect. He was an extradordinarily gifted mentor and teacher," recalled Martin, who worked with Dr. Gavins for eight years.

He said Gavins began teaching at Duke in 1970, and taught there until 2016, when he passed away suddenly following a stroke.

The Carr Building is not the only dedication to Carr in the Triangle; the city of Carrboro is named in his honor. According to the town's website, the change was made after Carr expanded his textile mill and provided electricity to the community.

University officials confirmed to ABC11 a request to rename the building is being reviewed.