Davidson College in North Carolina has elected not to change the name of a building named after Maxwell Chambers, a major 19th-century donor to the institution who owned and made a massive fortune off enslaved people, The Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday.
Davidson’s president, who backed the Committee on Acknowledgment and Naming’s recommendation to keep the name, said the decision aims to acknowledge the university’s origins and its past complicity with the institution of slavery.
“To take one name off, while not taking all the names off, seems inconsistent,” Doug Hicks told the Observer. “To take the name off would run against the obligation to acknowledge the fact that slavery was a part of our founding and that we continued it into an era of segregation after that.”
In weighing whether to rename the building, Davidson officials considered “possible harm caused by leaving or retaining the name, how offensive or wrong the person’s conduct was, and the figure’s relevance to the college’s history,” the Observer wrote.
Chambers did play a significant role in the college’s legacy; when he died, he left a donation that was, at the time, the largest ever bequeathed to a Southern institution, and it may have saved the college from closing.
The college has several projects in the works designed to promote reconciliation, including erecting a monument to the enslaved people who constructed Davidson’s campus.