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Yale University Consigns a Present-Day Monument to the Past

Op/Ed By Marc Morial


marcmoriall( – “Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.” — Joyce Carol Oates, Author, New York Times, December 30, 1999.

Don’t allow anyone to tell you differently. Symbols matter. Whether these symbols are flags, icons or names on buildings, symbols are shorthand and they stand in for those core values we reject—and those we accept.

After years of outcry, protests, and an act of glass-shattering vandalism, Yale University has recently announced that the name of the residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun will be changed. Calhoun, a Yale alumnus, served our nation as its seventh vice president, its 16th secretary of state, its 10th secretary of war, and as a senator representing South Carolina, but his service to our country—his legacy—is overshadowed by his fierce defense of the indefensible institution of slavery. Calhoun, a self-described white supremacist, was a slaveholder and an ardent supporter of slavery. During his 1837 senate address, he publicly hailed the institution as a “positive good.”

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