Of the great things to be in 2022, a statue certainly isn’t one.
Case in point: In Raleigh, North Carolina recently, the sculpted image of William Peace got served some social justice.
Evidently, it’s been a long time coming.
He also donated 8 acres.
Thus was born Peace Institute.
1943 saw a name change to Peace College.
It began admitting men in 2012, now bearing the moniker William Peace University.
But despite the institution’s pro-women pedigree, benefactor William Peace has been targeted for cancellation.
Last week’s statement from the school celebrated diversity:
William Peace University is in continuous pursuit of being a place where our diversity is celebrated, inclusion is practiced, and respect is commonplace. … [A] task force was created during the 2020-21 academic year to conduct research in key areas and identify parts of our history that are not consistent with our current values as an institution. We knew that to move forward, we must understand our history as an institution and where it may/may not intersect with white supremacy, slavery, and/or racism.
The task force determined that “areas of the school’s history are diametrically opposed to…current values.”
We are making this public acknowledgment because living our values today requires us to reckon with the hard truths of our past.
The…most prominent, and enduring symbol of William Peace University is Main Building… …. Our research has revealed that the labor and skill that went into Main’s construction included that of enslaved people.
Mr. William Peace, for whom our university is named, owned enslaved people. The 1860 census records his ownership of fifty-one enslaved people.
The force concluded William’s statue “could create a divisive environment on campus.”
With input from the school’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a vote was cast by the Board of Trustees.
William Peace judged William Peace to be a real piece, so his flushing from campus was decreed.
The William Peace statue at William Peace University was removed Tuesday after a school task force found historical connections to slavery and racism. https://t.co/EyTZq4P1Re
— ABC11 EyewitnessNews (@ABC11_WTVD) March 23, 2022
Subsequently on the docket: a sad day and “listening sessions.”
In addition to removing the statue, the university will begin with a Day of Acknowledgment on March 24th to enable our community to reflect on these findings. This will be followed by community input and listening sessions with our students, faculty/staff, alumni, and Board of Trustees. These listening sessions will allow us to interpret and process these facts as well as hear how we can reckon with and respond to our history in a way that makes us a better institution.
All that reflection would be led by third-party DEI firm The Diversity Movement, along with the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion director.
William Peace’s plight is stunningly similar to that of another Bill — William Rice, for whom Houston’s Rice University was named.
Both Bills purportedly owned slaves, and in each instance, the college at issue footed the Bill — each man was kicked off his own property.
Oddly, in neither case has the school changed its name.
So you can wear the guy’s brand all over yourself; you just can’t sculpt him to size.
To be fair, the future’s anyone’s guess at William Peace:
The input and learnings from these discussions will be translated into a set of recommendations that will be shared with the university leadership and our Board of Trustees. We will then decide on the next steps we will take to move forward.
Slavery is a stunning American shame, and it’s right for the country to condemn such egregious evil. As for methodology, we’re living in interesting times. The best I can tell, most everything that gets changed in the name of change doesn’t actually change anything — institutions are moving to move things because they find that moving; but in the end, the state of things remains the same.
Even so, hopefully everyone at William Peace will feel better knowing that a monument to William Peace no longer sits where it once did. I’m sure William Peace won’t care — he’s been dead for nearly 150 years.
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