One university is breaking with the cancel culture mentality that is plaguing the U.S. after a recent discovery that the school’s namesake was a slave owner.
Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina was informed by Wake Forest University sociologist Joseph Soares that its namesake, Washington Manly Wingate, who also served as a two-time President of Wake Forest, sold sixteen enslaved people to fund Wake Forest university’s endowment during his tenure as president.
“I would first like to clear up an assumption some have made since the news first broke: Wingate University is NOT considering a name change.” University President Rhett Brown said in a statement, saying instead it is “time to reclaim the Wingate name”.
“It was found that ‘every president of Wake Forest until the Civil War had enslaved human beings under him.’ That includes Manly Wingate. Knowing that the stain of past transgressions can never be eliminated and that the debt to people of color can never be repaid, Wingate University officials do believe this deeply upsetting news can serve as an opportunity for reflection, reconciliation and growth.” Wingate University said in a statement addressing the news.
Taking penance by cowering in shame and quickly folding to societal pressure to cover up any dark and embarrassing history is the way to right by some in the U.S.’ current cultural climate, but few expound on these instances as an opportunity to learn and grow.
“It’s time to…reaffirm our position statement: To all students who strive to improve themselves and their communities, Wingate University is a laboratory of difference-making, where students’ desire to learn intersects with faculty expertise and with opportunities in our region, to serve the common good,” President Brown said.
Brown plans to address the university’s past head-on. He has appointed a team of researchers to dig into the history of the Wingate namesake and report their findings back to an advisory board.
“Based on these findings, the advisory group will recommend to our Board of Trustees ways to improve how we serve all students in an environment where each individual belongs and thrives. I pledge to you that these recommendations will lead to meaningful action and long-standing, tangible change,” Brown promised.
Wake Forest, which had a chapel on campus with a hall named after Wingate, employed what has become the conventionally accepted response in this scenario and renamed the hall to May 7, 1860 Hall.
The date is a nod to Wake Forest’s own participation in slavery and marks when 16 enslaved people were sold to fund the endowment under Wingate.
“This truth hurts. It casts a shadow over our university, my alma mater, and is not in keeping with who we are today, what we value and how we strive to be more inclusive for the students who study here and the people who work here,” Brown said, expressing his disappointment at the time of discovery.
“We don’t really care what it’s called, as long as we have the same family, same family atmosphere, the same traditions. I’m proud to be a Wingate student. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made,” Wingate senior Grayson Chapman told local station WSOC-TV 9.
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