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Saturday May 27th

'Stay tuned for more details': UNC lacks a plan for Kenan Stadium recontextualization

<p>New Carolina blue seats are installed in Kenan Memorial Stadium on September 29th, 2018.</p>
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New Carolina blue seats are installed in Kenan Memorial Stadium on September 29th, 2018.

The University announced on Oct. 3 the plaques honoring William R. Kenan Sr. in Kenan Memorial Stadium would be changed to focus on the donor, William R. Kenan Jr. 

No specific plans of how and when these changes will be made have been announced.

Kenan Sr. led a machine gun squad capable of firing 420 bullets per minute in the Wilmington massacre, a coup planned by white militia which killed between 60 to 300 Black residents. 

UNC Media Relations' Carly Miller referred The Daily Tar Heel in an email to to Chancellor Folt’s campus email for reasoning behind the decision to change the stadium’s plaques.

“In terms of next steps, the History Task Force will take this on, but we don’t have specifics yet on timing or process. Stay tuned for more details,” Miller said.

The Daily Tar Heel reached out to Amy Hertel and Jim Leloudis, members of the Chancellor's Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History, for comment on next steps in the plaque-changing process, but did not receive a reply to the request at the time of publication. Hertel shared the email with UNC Media Relations Director Joanne Peters Denny, who said in an email on Thursday the Task Force had no plans to share at the moment, and also referred The Daily Tar Heel to Chancellor Folt’s campuswide email.

“We will certainly keep you updated as things progress and encourage you to check back in periodically,” Peters Denny said. “However, I wanted to make sure you were aware that Jim Leloudis, one of the other chairs of the Task Force, will be speaking at University Day tomorrow and may share an update on the work of the Task Force.”

Leloudis did share a brief update regarding the Task Force’s work at University Day on Friday. He spoke about plans to contextualize McCorkle Place with markers meant to honor indigenous peoples and address UNC’s long history of profiting from slavery, but did not mention plans for Kenan Memorial Stadium.

“Our work on Carolina Hall and McCorkle Place is a part of a much larger undertaking,” he said on Friday. “Chancellor Folt and the Board of Trustees charged the Task Force with researching and teaching the full breadth of Carolina’s history, and there is considerable work yet to be done.”

UNC geography professor Altha Cravey said she thinks we need new leadership to truly address the University’s racialized landscape. 

“The Task Force is clearly not up to the job of what they’ve been assigned, and we just need something much bigger to address these issues,” she said. “Clearly the first step in that would be getting rid of the 16-year moratorium on building name changes, but also to get rid of the Task Force itself and create a much bigger public commission.”

Last February, the Faculty Athletics Committee passed a motion recommending the UNC Athletics Department place a new plaque on Kenan Memorial Stadium to recognize slavery as the origin of the Kenan family’s wealth.

FAC member William Sturkey, who proposed the motion, said in an email that nothing happened after the committee made its recommendation to the Athletic Department.

“As far as I can tell, the Athletics Department told us that it would ask the History Task Force for guidance, but a representative from the History Task Force told me, ‘The Task Force has not been asked to address the matter,’” Sturkey said. 

Sturkey said at that point, he assumed the Athletics Department had decided to ignore the committee’s recommendation.

“Then the latest news broke and the public nature of such egregious violence has forced them to respond,” he said.

Cravey said while she is glad the Kenan family stepped up, she thinks the University needs a much more comprehensive plan in place to truly address the racialized landscape on campus.

“I think it’s a good step, but I think it’s insufficient because the revelations of the person it was named for, the father, show once again how very troubling the racialized landscape on our campus is,” she said. “It’s nice to have instead of the name of a mass murderer, to have the son of a mass murderer, but that’s a pretty marginal benefit.”

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