On Oct. 3, 2018, then-Chancellor Carol Folt announced UNC would be changing the dedication plaques at Kenan Memorial Stadium to honor William Rand Kenan Jr. instead of his father, William Rand Kenan Sr. — the commander of a white supremacist unit that killed at least 25 Black individuals in the Wilmington Massacre of 1898.
More than one year later, the University temporarily covered at least one of the plaques with a UNC logo.
Kenan Stadium was originally named after the elder Kenan at the request of his son, who left much of his $95 million fortune to the University after he died in 1965. After multiple reports detailed the elder Kenan's role as the commander of a white supremacist unit that killed dozens in the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, Folt announced the University would alter the stadium's signage.
The University communicated with the Kenan family and decided to refocus the namesake of the stadium on the younger Kenan, according to Folt's statement. Folt said the Chancellor's Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History would undertake the project of changing the plaques.
The timeline for undertaking the project was described as in "the coming weeks," following the statement’s release.
“Last year, the University announced we would change the plaques at Kenan stadium to recognize Kenan Memorial Stadium appropriately," the University said in a statement Tuesday. "The logo placed over a plaque last week is a temporary fix until new signage can be created.”
The University did not say when a permanent solution would be implemented, or why changes to the plaques were delayed.
Damion Williams, a first-year majoring in environmental health sciences, said he wants to believe that the change was put off for a good reason.
“I would like to give the benefit of the doubt to the people in charge of the effort as they’ve been dealing with other things like Silent Sam,” Williams said. “I do think there should be a team working on the Kenan project specifically.”
The University's History Task Force, commissioned by Folt in 2015, was assigned to the Kenan Stadium project, but the group’s latest news update on its website was on Oct. 12, 2018.
Anthony Howard, a first-year majoring in journalism and media, said he was not aware of the controversy surrounding Kenan Stadium.
“I would’ve liked to have been,” Howard said. “Especially as a first-year student, it would have been nice to know more about the history of the University.”
Howard said he understands it could be difficult to rebrand such an iconic campus landmark.
“I understand that it is an iconic name, so it can be difficult to rebrand,” Howard said. “It is important for the University to acknowledge what Kenan represents, but it is also important for them to apologize for this message being emboldened through such an iconic place.”
De’Ivyion Drew, a sophomore majoring in studio art and African, African American and diaspora studies and a member of the Campus Safety Commission, said building names are much more important and impactful than many people realize.
“Names are representations of power, and this University continues to give power to the Kenan family and the legacy of their participation in slavery and massacring families because of civic duty,” Drew said in a text to the DTH.
Drew said Kenan Stadium is just one of many buildings named after individuals with problematic or racist histories.
“There are at least 25 other facilities with white supremacist names and connections, and as a Black female student, it is a constant reminder that the University I attend chooses the ‘accomplishments’ of people who do not see me as human," Drew said in a text. "And in turn, that dehumanizes and devalues me to an invisible object who is not welcomed and never will be.”
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