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Calls to Rename Maryland Dorms, Schools

FOX 45 Interview with Loren Henderson, Associate Professor.

June 19, 2020 11:38 AM

There's a growing cultural shift in the wake of nationwide protests.

Quaker Oats is pulling the "Aunt Jemima" brand, which they say is rooted in in a racial stereotype.

The University of Virginia is changing its logo, which has symbols linked to slavery.

Last week, HBO Max removed "Gone With The Wind" over racist depictions.

Here in Maryland a similar debate is underway. There are new demands for name changes at some long-standing institutions in our area.

At Towson University a committee has just been formed to look into renaming two dorms that are named after prominent Maryland slave owners.

Just down the road from the university sits Loyola Blakefield high school and there's a petition to change that school's name name.

Calls to remove statutes, rename buildings, military bases and institutions with historical ties to racism and slavery are being heard around the United States.

"There is an ongoing debate around this issue and it’s a debate right? Not everyone agrees," says associate professor of sociology Dr. Loren Henderson with the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

"If people actually look at the history of when these schools were named, when these monuments were put up, when army bases were named, a lot of them came during the civil rights movement as a response to desegregation, as a response to racial equity being pursued during the civil rights movement," says Dr. Rashawn Ray, a professor of sociology with the University of Maryland College Park.

More than 460 people support the petition "Rename Loyola's campus. Remove the Blakefield name."

It was started by an alum who writes that the Blake family, when donating money to buy the land where the school is in Towson, directed that "no colored boys be admitted."

In a statement the school's president Anthony Day says:

"We are aware of this allegation and are working closely with our alumni and board of trustees to determine what basis - if any - there is for considering a change of name. This includes rigorous research to discern the veracity of the claim expressed in the petition.

In the meantime, it’s important to make clear that Loyola Blakefield has an unqualified commitment to addressing the tragic and unacceptable prevalence of racism in any and every form - however subtle or blatant.

We are committed to assessing both our legacy and current culture and practices to determine what changes need to be made and what measurable initiatives must be implemented to ensure that all who are entrusted to us for their education understand the painful reality of racial injustice and, importantly, their potential to make a discernible difference.”

We pledge our relentless commitment to ensuring that all who enter and depart our doors come to embrace their obligation to be true change agents in helping create communities in which all have equal advantage in pursuing their full, unmitigated potential."

Also in Baltimore County is the McDonogh School, which is named after John McDonogh, a Baltimore born businessman, plantation and slave owner who lived in New Orleans.

Following the statue of McDonogh being toppled and thrown in the Mississippi River, the school sent this statement on behalf of the head of school, David J. Farace:

"Shamefully and regrettably, slavery is part of our school’s history. John McDonogh, whose estate led to the creation of McDonogh School in 1873, built his wealth using slave labor. Today, McDonogh is committed to being a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, and in honoring this commitment, we must continue to acknowledge, confront, and denounce the evils of racism that contributed to our school’s founding, and that tragically and systemically still exist in our country."

"Names matter," says Dr. Ray. "And when people look up the names of these schools, these monuments, these military bases. What they see is that they are people who led the Confederacy or who wanted black people to remain enslaved. That’s the simple of it."

"Addressing this renaming, pulling down statues, things like that at the institutional level recognizes this current connection of slavery for African-Americans today," says Dr. Henderson. "Another part of the debate is many claim it ignores U.S. history and U.S. history is complex. From a sociological perspective, we’d want to look at those debates and that would lead to the answers of whether we want to change our culture. That I think is the biggest question."

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