NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Rutgers University, in an effort to confront its slave-owning past, has renamed two buildings and a walkway.
The university on Thursday held a dedication ceremony that included a rare ringing of its centuries-old Old Queens Bell and a reading of Maya Angelou’s poetry, NJ.com reported .
The board overseeing the university decided in February to rename the Old Queens Walkway in honor of an enslaved man who helped lay the nearby administration building’s foundation. The new name is Will’s Way.
The College Avenue Apartments are now the Sojourner Truth Apartments, after abolitionist Sojourner Truth, who was owned by relatives of the university’s first president.
Officials also renamed the Kilmer Library the James Dickson Carr Library, after James Dickson Carr, Rutgers’ first black graduate.
The name changes were vital to acknowledging a dark period in the university’s history, Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Deba Dutta said.
“The dedications will help the university take the next step in its reconciliation with this history,” Dutta said. “Will, Sojourner Truth and James Dickson Carr deserve their place alongside the other historic figures memorialized on our campus.”
Rutgers’ decision to reconcile with its history involving slavery comes after several other colleges moved away from figures who had racist pasts. The College of New Jersey renamed a building that had been named after a segregationist. Stockton University removed a bust of its slave-owning namesake, Richard Stockton.
Rutgers, founded in 1766, compiled research shedding light on its beginnings. A detailed report, published in the book “Scarlet and Black,” showed how intertwined Rutgers’ early history was with slavery, a common theme among America’s colonial colleges.
Information from: NJ Advance Media.