NEW HAVEN--Calhoun College, which houses about 400 students on the Yale campus, is named in honor of former Vice President John C. Calhoun, a well known advocate of slavery. In light of the recent massacre in South Carolina, and the Confederate flag debate, some students want Calhoun’s name abolished from the building.
As of late-afternoon Tuesday, nearly 1,300 current and former Yale students had signed an online petition, which reads, in part, “at a time when many of his southern colleagues viewed slavery as a necessary evil, Calhoun infamously defended the institution as a positive good.”
“Slavery created such income inequality in modern day America that anything having to do with the Confederacy belongs in a museum,” said Quinn Nelson, a University of New Haven graduate student.
Rachael Shulman, a Yale sophomore, said,“A name is a label. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the meaning behind things. So I think that having just the name Calhoun is simply a series of letters put together.”
Brianna Johnson, who graduated from New Haven’s Career High School in June, said Calhoun’s name must come off the building. “We live in New Haven and there’s a lot of other races that live there. You have to respect other people’s beliefs,” said Johnson.
Yale issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying it “welcomes engagement and discussion on this important topic.”
“I think removing all of the seedy things, or the bad things that some people might think, because it signifies a dismemberment of the Union, is I think it’s just a little bit overkill,” added Shulman.
For some, the Confederacy is part of our country’s history. For others, that flag brings back memories of the famous Cornerstone Speech in March 1861, when “the vice president of the Confederacy told all of us that the Confederate, the Confederacy, is really about the subjugation of black people and the supremacy of white people,” said state Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven.
Connecticut’s Democratic Party is also considering a name change for its annual fund raiser, known as the Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey Dinner. The name honors Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, founders of the Democratic Party, who also owned slaves. Still, the decision on a name change isn’t simple.
Winfield, who says he would lean toward changing the name, added, “You have, as the peer mission of the Confederacy, to establish a difference between blacks and whites. I also recognize that the Presidents may have had slaves, but that’s not the totality of who they were.”
One Connecticut connection to the Confederacy where there will definitely be a change involves two-time Travelers’ Championship winner Bubba Watson. He says he will paint over the Confederate flag that sits atop his Dukes of Hazard General Lee car with an American flag.