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UNC Changes Name of Stadium, Which Has Honored Racist

October 3, 2018
 
 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has announced a seemingly small but historically significant change in the name of its football stadium, known as Kenan Stadium (at right). Money for the stadium was donated by the late William R. Kenan Jr., one of the most generous donors to the university. But he specified that the stadium would honor his father, William R. Kenan Sr., and a plaque has said this is the Kenan honored. The elder Kenan was a white leader in what many white people have for years described as the "Wilmington Insurrection," but what many black people (and these days historians) call the "Wilmington Massacre." In 1898, white supremacist paramilitary units -- including one led by Kenan Sr. -- attacked black people in Wilmington, where they had managed to create institutions that helped black people. Until recently, North Carolina children were taught that black people revolted and that white people stopped the rebellion. In fact, historians now say that this was an unprovoked and bloody attack on black people. An article from last year in The Atlantic describes the history. More recently, Craig Calcaterra, a writer for NBC Sports, described Kenan Sr.'s role commanding one of the units and murdering black people. That article has set off discussion of whether it is appropriate to have the stadium honor Kenan.

Carol L. Folt, chancellor at Chapel Hill, released a statement Wednesday that said in part, "I am pleased to report that after talking with the family, the university has decided to change the plaques to remove the honorific reference to William R. Kenan Sr., to focus instead on the donor who made the gift, William R. Kenan Jr., and to tell the full and complete history."

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