CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article incorrectly outlined UNC's building name removal process. The article has been updated to reflect a more specific timeline of the process. Additionally, a previous version of this article incorrectly identified the location and timing of a vote related to the renaming of Bingham Hall.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the UNC Commission on History, Race and A Way Forward discussed renaming UNC's Barbee Cemetery. The commission only discussed replacing signage at the cemetery.
The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for these errors.
The UNC Commission on History, Race, and A Way Forward met virtually on Sept. 10 to discuss the name removal of two campus locations — Ruffin Residence Hall and Bingham Hall — and changing signage at Barbee Cemetery.
Commission co-chairpersons and UNC professors Patricia Parker and James Leloudis began the meeting with an overview of the name removal process.
The process begins with a request for name removal submitted to the chancellor.
Following this action, the chancellor can decline, request additional information or move the request to the Chancellor's Committee to Review the History Commission Resolution.
Next, the chancellor's committee votes on the name removal recommendation. Finally, the Board of Trustees considers the recommendation.
Thomas Ruffin Jr.
The commission first discussed the request for the removal of the name Thomas Ruffin Jr. from an Olde Campus Upper Quad dormitory.
The name of Thomas Ruffin Sr. was previously removed from Ruffin Residence Hall at a Board of Trustees meeting in July. Trustees voted to keep the name of Thomas Ruffin Jr. because they felt not enough evidence was provided to justify the removal of Ruffin Jr.’s name.
“There is very little in the public record about him," Leloudis said. "But new information did come to light and now we do have a documentary record that ties Thomas Ruffin Jr. directly to the violence of the KKK."
Leloudis said Ruffin Jr. advocated for amnesty for Klansmen and in doing so, declared allegiance to white supremacy, even when it was enforced through murder and other terrorist tactics.
Following the discussion, commission members expressed unanimous consent for the motion to approve the dossier on Thomas Ruffin Jr.
Robert Hall Bingham
The commission then discussed the removal of Robert Hall Bingham’s name from a campus hall. Leloudis said new information had been introduced that ties Bingham directly to the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County.
“New information came to light literally last night and we now have new evidence from another of Robert Hall Bingham's descendants suggesting — confirming he was a member of the Klan during Reconstruction in Orange County,” Leloudis said.
Following this evaluation, the commission emphasized the need to rationalize and understand all evidence. The group voted unanimously to recommend the removal of the name to the chancellor.
Leloudis led the discussion surrounding changing signage at Barbee Cemetery.
“I think we can say that there is quite a large number of enslaved people buried there,” Leloudis said.
Commission member Danita Mason-Hogans said there was the need to reach out to descendants of both the Barbee family and enslaved people buried there to find a way to move forward with dignity and respect.
Leloudis said the commission will work on this in the coming months, with the goal of telling the story and acknowledging the humanity of the people buried there.
During the meeting, Parker and Leloudis centered the commission’s plans around education, collective healing and community relationship-building. The commission discussed the pushback they may face for removing names, but Leloudis said the commission aims to educate the community on history about which many are unaware.
Leloudis said he remains optimistic for the future after seeing that the vast majority of people changed their minds after the unrest related to removing Silent Sam, once presented with the full history of the monument.
“We are in this incredible moment where people are hungry for this conversation,” Parker said.
Following the meeting, the commission plans to continue the process of issuing a recommendation to the chancellor. But Leloudis and Parker said they have no intention of rushing the renaming process.
“We need, as a community, some space and some time to really go through a deliberative process,” Leloudis said.
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