The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday November 30th

More than 100 call for the renaming of Saunders Hall

More than 100 students and community members gathered at the Silent Sam monument at noon Friday to demand Saunders Hall be renamed Hurston Hall, after prominent black writer Zora Neale Hurston. 

“We are actively changing the name to Hurston Hall because Zora Neale Hurston was a student of UNC although she was an unofficial student before the University was integrated,” said Willie Wright, a geography graduate student. “It’s a way to acknowledge not only the students of color here now but the students before us.”

The rally opened with a march across the upper quad with protestors shouting “UNC calls for Hurston Hall.” Throughout the rally, students encouraged people to refer to Saunders Hall as Hurston Hall. 

“It’s Hurston Hall to me already,” said Dylan Mott, an activist with the Silent Sam Coalition. “When I’m going to class and I’m going to that building, I’m going to Hurston Hall.” 

Student activists read the speech given by industrialist Julian Carr at the dedication of the Silent Sam monument in 1913.  In the speech, Carr said he “horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds” for insulting a white woman. 

“In 1913, I would have been a negro wench,” said Ashley Winkfield, a member of the Real Silent Sam Coalition. “Now, I have the opportunity to be a student at this great University but the stigma of my second-class status has not been erased from this campus.”

Jamie Sohn, a 2002 alumna who participated in the 1999 rally to rename Saunders, said she was amazed the administration is still resisting the name change. 

“We thought there’d be a change. There were 50 to 100 people there, and there are so many out here now. Please, please, please — to the Board of Governors, to the Chancellor — take us seriously this time.” 

Student speakers expressed frustration with UNC's Board of Trustees, which has the power to change building names on campus.  

“There’s no reason they can really give us as to why we can’t honor this person as opposed to this very problematic and traumatic person,” Winkfield said. 

For the past year, the Real Silent Sam Coalition has been working with the Board of Trustees, but this semester they will be carrying out rallies to contextualize campus symbols.  

“The Board of Trustees has heard our demands in the past, as recently as last year, and has not budged,” said Mott. “They continue to say ‘oh if you follow the correct channels, then you’ll see some change.’ But we’ve done that several times throughout the past decade as an organization and we still haven’t seen any success. Right now, we’re taking a more populist approach.” 

Monday morning, the group will hold a rally outside Saunders Hall to continue the movement. The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies will also host a debate on the removal of the Silent Sam monument Monday night. 

Omololu Babatunde, one of the main organizers of the event, said this change is long overdue. 

“It is time for UNC to make the journey from ‘negro wench’ to Hurston Hall."

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